Radiation sweetness | Music Feature | Indy Week
Pin It

Radiation sweetness 

The Twilight Sad's volume is only a surface

Three sad faces, one North Face: The Twilight Sad

Photo courtesy of the band

Three sad faces, one North Face: The Twilight Sad

In an interview with British glossy The Fly late last year, Andy MacFarlane, the guitarist for the Scottish band The Twilight Sad, copped to an identity crisis. "We are still at the stage where we don't really know where we are in this whole music industry thing," he said. "It's not like we're a stadium band. We're not a lads band, like Oasis or something. We're not a scenester-y band, and yet we're not a pure experimental band, either. Obviously, we're noisy and stuff, but we write proper songs as well."

While MacFarlane likely didn't realize that he was offering a proper self-definition, the unassuming Scotsman was indeed explaining the charm of The Twilight Sad. On albums—they have two, each on British indie Fat Cat—the band delivers a host of moody pop meditations, simple verse-chorus-verse constructions obscured by smoke screens of screeching guitars and reverb-soaked noise. Live, the band hides the pop even further beneath a supersized miasma of guitar-adoring volume. It's a tight needle to thread, but the band manages to reconcile the unwavering commitment to amps-at-11 of their Glaswegian neighbors Mogwai and the bald-faced simplicity of Frightened Rabbit's profane folk rock. The songs aren't just proper, then. They're great.

"That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy," from their debut Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, is the premier example. It begins with a tom-heavy drum pattern and a stutter of shoegaze guitars. James Graham's vocals descend with quiet ease, repeating the lines "the kids are on fire in the bedroom" with increasing urgency. The heat becomes too much to bear, and the guitars burst into flames. The catharsis would be enough to satisfy most bands, but MacFarlane and company aren't content with a single payoff. Slide guitars have their way with the song's midsection before the vocal refrain returns, leading into a solemn, slowly evaporating dénouement. MacFarlane's ill-tempered guitar line collapses on itself.

The Twilight Sad—rounded out by drummer Mark Devine and bassist Johnny Docherty—aren't the first band to bury sugar beneath volume. Remember, volume is excitement, an enticing ingredient for any song that aims for intensity. The recoding industry's Loudness Wars, that trunk rattler rolling down your block right now and the inexplicable success of New York band A Place To Bury Strangers all point to its allure. But it's one thing to appreciate decibels for decibels' sake and another entirely to hear the knob cranked with capable hands. Volume can be a crutch, but when wielded by these Scotsmen it's a storm used to make any calm less serene, more dynamic.

It's only fitting that "That Summer...," the band's strongest song to date, happens to be their first—five minutes born of the earliest Twilight Sad jam sessions. Yes, moments of last fall's Forget the Nights Ahead came close to recapturing that magic. "I Became a Prostitute," for instance, momentarily nails both ends of the spectrum, gliding as it does between quiet and loud. But ultimately it lacks the immediacy of "Summer," a song that benefits from being written by a band completely unconcerned with its footing in some music landscape. Recapturing the blurred magic of those early tracks might clear up some of MacFarlane's uncertainties. More important, it'd afford The Twilight Sad the necessary assurance to again straddle a line that deserves and rewards such action.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Music Feature



Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

See her sing live! It's transcendent

by Andrew 1 on For Thirty Years, Cult Hero Syd Straw Has Stood Strong on the Cusp of Fame (Music Feature)

The Bronzed Chorus rawk!!! They're gonna be the next Aerosmith!!! …

by Shamus Johnson on After a Bout with Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Bronzed Chorus’s Adam Joyce Renews His Musical Mission (Music Feature)

Basically, it is a really good feeling to compose music. You need pretty strong words to use and give more …

by Antley on Put a Ring on It: N.C. Opera Takes on Wagner’s Formidable Masterwork (Music Feature)

New to the area and would love to be apart of the Hip Hop growth in the RTP area!

by Lateef Massey on Durham’s Beats & Bars Festival Looks to Bring Blackness Back to Main Street (Music Feature)

You should have attended the recent concert (September 13, 2016) at Raleigh's Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. It …

by STH on A quintet of collaborations that never panned out for North Carolina's piano man (Music Feature)

Comments

See her sing live! It's transcendent

by Andrew 1 on For Thirty Years, Cult Hero Syd Straw Has Stood Strong on the Cusp of Fame (Music Feature)

The Bronzed Chorus rawk!!! They're gonna be the next Aerosmith!!! …

by Shamus Johnson on After a Bout with Rheumatoid Arthritis, The Bronzed Chorus’s Adam Joyce Renews His Musical Mission (Music Feature)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation