The Twilight Sad have gained a reputation for being a loud live act. Words such as “visceral” and “intense” are used by rock critics and music writers a lot when describing their stage show.

They have, however, also just released a surprisingly ethereal-in-tone new mini-album, ‘Here, It Snowed. Afterwards It Did’. It has taken several of the songs off their well-received debut album, ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’, removed from them all its stormy, discordant guitars and replaced them with a haunting majesty and beauty.

And there lies the dilemma for the Twilight Sad with this latest tour. Do they do what they have always done and play volcanic-in-volume sets, or do they, as they have also intimated in occasional shows in churches and other quieter settings, continue to expand in this new and more subtle direction ?

They go for the former, rather than the latter, and, almost as if to prove that they can still cut it after this sidestep, Andy MacFarlane and bassist Craig Orzal blast their fuzz-heavy guitars not just up to ten as if they have done effectively in the past, but in all the way up to twelve.

It could, to be fair, just be a bad night or there might be problems with the Bongo Club’s usually reliable PA system. Tonight’s Sunday night show in Edinburgh is, however, something of a mess. Drummer Mark Devine works very hard to keep up, but eventually drowns beneath the feedback. An older man with greying hair and in a suit, presumably a proud parent or relation, who has made the 45 mile trip through from the band’s native Kilsyth, mouths along to the bruised melancholy of singer James Graham’s lyrics, but really Graham can’t be heard. New tour recruit and former Aerogramme member Campbell McNeill meanwhile for all the impact that his keyboards are having would have been better off staying in the dressing room or going to the bar.

Favourites such as ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’ and ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ are churned out, alongside several new songs, which the band will begin recording in September for their second album proper. They are all, however, lost and become much of a muchness beneath the frenzied blur of the guitars.

It is only towards the end with their last number, an extended version of ‘Cold Days at the Birdhouse’, which opens both ‘Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters’ and the new mini-album, that the Twilight Sad provide a short glimmer of something more. The guitars drift away to a whisper, and the mournful, thick Celtic brogue of Graham’s vocals and McNeill’s tingling keyboards at last briefly bloom, before the distortion starts up all over again.

The Twilight Sad are undoubtedly one of the best and most exciting of recent Scottish acts. They have, as has been reported regularly on this site, also experimented with feedback both on record and in the live setting successfully in the past, but with a far better proportion of dynamics and not to the same degree of suffocation of all other instrumentation. Hopefully tonight’s overcooked performance is simply a blip and not the beginnings of something more serious. Only barely eighteen months into their live career, the Twilight Sad, by continuing to overstretch the format in this manner, otherwise stand the severe risk of falling into self-parody.

As they have already proved, quiet can sometimes really be the new loud.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Bongo Club, Edinburgh, 15/6/2008 - Twilight Sad

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last