Music Reviews
Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

The Twilight Sad Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

(Fat Cat) Rating - 8/10

For a band that extols being miserable as a virtue, The Twilight Sad doesn’t do such a good job when the music matches their downtrodden reputation. It doesn’t mean that their last foray into penetrating synth rock was in any means a failure, but the lukewarm reception of their last record No One Can Ever Know - and the antipathy vocalist James Graham feels for it - proves that it didn’t raise their profile as much as they would’ve hoped. It almost broke the band apart to an extent, which is understandable considering their Scottish friends Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks have gone on to fill numerous decent-sized theaters. They’ve become a perpetual opening act for their peers despite their plentiful talent, though it might be because they’ve never compromised their standards. The Sad in their name is truly earned, their strident yet melodic style as corrosive as it is inviting.

It’s true that you’ll never see The Twilight Sad prancing around the stage having an inebriated sense of heightened confidence. However, I’d reconsider their willingness to compromise. Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave makes an effort to remedy their cloistered demeanor, one that surges and ebbs like a pulsing, anxious heart. A more controlled counterpart to their debut, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, there’s a hunger to return to the high-blown anthems that made it, to this day, such a memorable listen. It isn’t either a return to form or a languid facsimile of their past work, more so a chance to once again let themselves cast some light into their dark lyrical imagery. The trembling, all-encompassing noise of Fourteen Autumns does loom over it, though it’s also offset by the silken mechanical synths they fidgeted with much success in No One Can Ever Know.

Album opener There’s a Girl in the Corner is a false start with its foreboding synths and pounding industrial drum beat, a reminder that they’re still applying from what they’ve learned. Graham’s cavernous brogue is still a commanding presence, and disquieting vocal flourishes like “there’s a girl in the corner/ and she’s crying for you/gonna die for you” are still the norm. What and where is this corner, exactly? But there’s a newfound directness in his words, less figurative though just as grisly, the reflection of a doomed romantic. “So cold and away you go/stop telling me no”, he bawls in the chorus to I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want, a widescreen sentiment that fits the song’s swelling, but still somewhat straightforward noise. It’s a little less introspective, and boatloads more immersive, coming from a performer who wants to put more forthright emotions in display.

This is as accessible as it gets for The Twilight Sad - potential single Drown So I Can Watch, with its glistening synths and mid-tempo chug, still expects to resonate with stabbing, heartfelt verses: “I put you through hell/but you carried it all so well”. That omnipresent murkiness is part of their genetic makeup, one they can’t get away from, and their ability to contrast optimism and dissolution through exuberant instrumentation is what they excel at. And though those moments of majestic lucidity aren’t as frequent as in Fourteen Autumns, they make it count with the soaring title track. What starts with a tinny, compressed beat quickly expands into a sweeping tremolo line that ascends into a thrilling, horn-led conclusion with pensive lament rendered immaculate. There’s no post-rock gimmicks to be found, no need to implode into a battering crescendo; they’ve tested those dynamics with excitable temperament before, but their constant bouts of self-doubt will never let them freely roam without keeping things compositionally tight.

There’s no use putting The Twilight Sad out of their misery if they continue to deliver such a delightfully morose tapestry of color and vitality. The self-disgust in Graham remains untouched, though he isn’t as perturbed as he used to, instead expressing defeatist pronouncements with sincerity and clarity. “You don’t want me anymore/you won’t need me anymore”, he ends in Sometimes I Wish I Could Fall Asleep as a bare piano caresses his weathered voice. Graham can be looked at as a wet blanket, but the stark simplicity and lilting intonation further emphasizes the band’s resplendent compositions. It seems as if The Twilight Sad are enjoying themselves again, as hopeless as ever and bearing the brunt of inner conflict. Their infinite sadness will forever be their saving grace.