Powerfully cacophonous but melodically muscular – amazing stuff.
Mike Diver 2009-09-22
Scottish foursome The Twilight Sad achieved something very unusual in the run-in to the release of their debut album of 2007, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters: they successfully courted stateside critics and audiences before focusing attentions on domestic matters. Subsequently, rolling over UK bloggers was a simple business for the band, whose brand of powerfully cacophonous drone-rock melds Mogwai dynamics with heartbreaking, rabbit-in-the-headlights vocals.
The formula hasn’t changed for their second long-player – these are some of the loudest ‘pop’ songs you’ll ever hear – but as the adage goes: if it’s not broken, why fix it? While that’ll prompt a degree of scepticism from some corners, repeat plays will allay concerns that quality control’s been compromised in any way – this is amazing stuff, still. Acutely affecting elements – the way the guitars sound as if they’re crying uncontrollably; James Graham’s increased confidence at the microphone; the whole world’s-about-to-end atmosphere of the thing – battle a tide of tumultuous percussion and roaring amplification near enough from start to finish.
The exceptions to the rule are few, acting as steady-yourself breathers around the record’s midway point. Scissors is a blissful instrumental that builds to a crackling climax, stirring the listener without really developing beyond a rattling hum; The Room and Floorboards Under the Bed offer respite from the ear-popping ferocity of the surrounding pieces. The latter track is particularly striking, a stark piano melody puncturing a distant wall of noise – true end-credits music for a forever-haunting slice of cinema yet to be realised.
The album-opening brace of Reflection of the Television and I Became a Prostitute will act as a veritable baptism of fire for anyone unfamiliar with the group’s signature sound. On both, the band’s predilection for eye-watering instrumental aggression bumps heads with their well-honed ear for muscular, stick-in-the-memory melodies; both tear strips off any number of ‘heavy’ acts you’d care to mention, without descending into metal-headed displays of force. If you’re not immediately impressed, you’re probably too bruised to feel anything at all. Rest up and come back.
And then do so again, and again, and again. As while hardly the sound of a commercially savvy act embracing a wider audience, Forget the Night Ahead captures its makers at the peak of their abilities. It’s an album to return to frequently, fresh nuances rising through a fog of dizzying distortion with every listen, and unequivocally one of the best rock records of 2009.