The Twilight Sad Forget The Night Ahead(Fat Cat) Buy it from Insound
It’s ironic that, given my Scottishness, I gave up on a certain kind of Scottish music some time ago. Sure, I’ve had some passionate times with Mogwai, and I still like sad, brooding music, but somewhere along the line it all got a little too Scottish. It seemed that all you needed were some guitars, a depressing atmosphere, and some quietLOUDquiet dynamics, and, of course, to be Scottish, and you fitted right in. There’s a brilliant part of Instrument, the Fugazi documentary, where Guy Picciotto is being interviewed and says something to the effect that hardcore music became boring when it became a lifestyle, when it became something you could wear and buy. A certain style of Scottish music became like that early on for me and I didn’t look back.
Why am I writing this? Because Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, the debut album by The Twilight Sad was the first Scottish album, that existed in that special genre of Scottish music, that I had enjoyed in a long time. It was the first album that had transcended the confines of its own sub-genre so that while being distinctively Scottish, it was also something more. A lot of this had to do with interesting arrangements and clever, oblique lyrics, and a lot had to do with an apparent contempt for subtlety, a visceral joy found in uncompromising catharsis. Opening track, Cold Days From the Birdhouse didn’t build up slowly and predictably, it exploded. Vocalist James Graham didn’t just sing the words, he screamed them. It was refreshing to listen to a band sound like they had something so important to say they couldn’t wait to make a polished, nuanced recording.
If there is a central problem with Forget the Night Ahead it’s that it sounds, to my ears, too much like Scottish music. It sounds too definitively comfortable in its surroundings. I’m not going to claim that this will necessarily be a problem for all, but if you’re bored with dour sounding music that doesn’t do much other than sound dour, you might be a little disappointed here.
I’m being a little extreme, and I don’t want to bash this album too much, so I won’t concentrate entirely on the negative. Single, I Became A Prostitute is a good example of a condensed, more radio friendly, version of The Twilight Sad’s sound, and Seven Years of Letters is a nice, spacious song on an album that often feels smothered by its own distortion and feedback. There are definitively good songs on this album.
Re-listening to FTNA, I’m reminded of seeing the band supporting Mogwai in Toronto earlier on this year. At the time, I remember listening to the new songs and really enjoying them, but wishing the sound wasn’t so thick and muddy sounding. It’s a production problem that plagues this album all over. My Bloody Valentine got away with layering songs with hundreds of tracks of distortion but then Loveless was the product of total obsession, a desire for perfection that took years. The distortion and feedback here often weigh the songs down and such dark, oblique lyrical content needs a little breathing space sometimes.
It saddens me to write this about The Twilight Sad, whose debut I still love, and I don’t want to dismiss this collection outright. I simply want to declare that I don’t think it’s for me, and it might not be for you if you don’t have a high tolerance level for a certain sort of music. It’s an album that often seems too muddied by its own misery and that, unfortunately, is a little too miserable for me. In January of this year, Graham told Edinburgh paper the Skinny that “if you’re looking for a record with a lot of hope and happy songs then fuck off, ‘cause you wont find it here with us!”, so I’m guessing that at this point I should probably fuck off…22 October, 2009 - 19:04 — Nick Fenn