The Twilight Sad - No One Can Ever Know
The Twilight Sad have kept the latent malevolence buried within a veneer of melancholy of their lyrics and found a proper home for it. The sound is more post-punk than shoegaze and has managed to enhance the lyrical quality without pandering to the worst excesses of it. For the Twilight Sad are not the miserabilist gits they might try to portray themselves. Despite the tone of the songs, there is something uplifting, in an odd sort of way, about the music on No One Can Ever Know.
Unlike Joy Division, or their imitators, the Twilight Sad are not rooted in depression. Instead, the tone of their work is more down to earth. They do not sing of the futility of human existence, but of the futility of pondering human existence. Life is too short for the Twilight Sad to worry about whether to end it prematurely. Instead, theirs is a world of coping with a break-up or missing out on something in retrospect you should have attended. There is more of the cold sterility of Krautrock about them than the bouncy pessimism of synth pop. Check out the rhythm of "Nil" is there should be any doubt in your mind about that last statement.
But the band can be assertive and threatening too. "Kill It in the Morning" is about as cold and dispassionate as you can get - a spectral haunting of a song which bands like Editors or Interpol would have sold their souls for, if they hadn't already sold them for money. And yet in "Alphabet" the Twilight Sad have found one of the most dreadful (in the sense of full of dread) synthesiser hooks that you could ever wish to hear.
Unfortunately, the promise shown by these tracks is not one the Twilight Sad live up to. All too often, there is a minimalism which is taken to extreme, and to no effect at all. James Graham's thick Glaswegian accent brings to mind another Glasgow band - Frightened Rabbit - but whereas Frightened Rabbit are not afraid to be who they are, if the most powerful tracks off No One Must Ever Know represent who the Twilight Sad are, then it is something they seem to have forgotten at times during the album. "Dead City" wishes it were "Kill It in the Morning" but the band fail to push the limits as far as they could. "Not Sleeping" could have been a "Nil" or an "Alphabet" but seems scared to go that far.
Although this is by some distance the Twilight Sad's best album, it is not as good as it could have been. If the band had stuck to what they do best on this album then it could have been one of the best this year. As it is they make the mistake of thinking that they can bring atmosphere to bear by stripping away as much of the music as possible. It is a formula which is difficult to pull off, and the Twilight Sad shy away from their ambition just as they appear to be on the verge of achieving it.
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