Live: The Twilight Sad – 21st November 2011

Buster Stonham reviews Scottish rockers The Twilight Sad at the Borderline.


The Borderline club in London is the archetypal cramped, sweaty basement club that keeps the London music scene alive, giving new bands the chance to cut their teeth on the live circuit. Tonight, the atmosphere is electric as the jam packed venue plays host to post-rock outfit The Twilight Sad. The band have built up a sizeable and dedicated following in their native Scotland, thanks to some rave reviews of their first two albums and are now seeking to repeat this success south of the border ahead of the release of their third album No One Can Ever Know in February.

Seeing the enormous speakers in this cramped venue, with the crowd close enough to the band to reach out and touch them, anyone who has seen The Twilight Sad before would know to expect an ear splitting performance. That’s certainly what the audience get, with exaggerated guitar feedback and pounding drums producing the ‘wall of noise’ that characterises the band’s live performances. At times it feels as if the audience is being somewhat bludgeoned into submission rather than really engaging with the show, especially as the song’s intricate melodies are frequently lost beneath the screaming guitars. But overall, tonight’s performance is one that can only really beg the question, “why aren’t these guys huge?”

Opening track ‘Kill It In The Morning’ is the first of many new songs slotted into tonight’s set. As a band that is always looking to innovate, lead singer James Graham in an interview with the Student newspaper in October last year, hinted that their new material ‘may be a bit more electronic if possible,’ and that the band made “a conscious decision to not do anything like we’ve done on the past two albums.” Hearing their new songs next to the old in the live setting, it’s clear that No One Can Ever Know will definitely see The Sad taking a new direction with their sound. Tracks like ‘Alphabet’ and current single ‘Sick’ are much more atmospheric in their feel and are punctuated by prominent electronic beats, but still retain grimy guitars of Andy MacFarlane and James Graham’s soaring vocals in his thick Scottish accent, that define what The Twilight Sad are all about.

The end of the set sees a return to killer tracks from debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, along with Graham giving a heartfelt thank you speech to the crowd for coming to the gig, in which he seems genuinely touched and overwhelmed that so many people are paying to come and see his band. His humility shows The Sad for what they really are, just four guys from a small town in Scotland who love making music for it’s own sake. ‘That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy,’ the first song the band ever wrote and possibly still their best, pushes the intensity of the performance to a new level and sees Graham go into a trance-like state as he belts out the words. The pounding rhythm of ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ builds to a crescendo that marks the peak of tonight’s performance. With their desire to always be innovating and a back catalogue of truly memorable tunes, The Twilight Sad are a band we should be hearing about much more in the years to come.

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