The Twilight Sad: No One Can Ever Know Review

Forming anything resembling a reasonable opinion about The Twilight Sad’s third album, No One Can Ever Know, hasn’t been easy.

After my first listen, I was ready to rule out rational thought altogether as I assumed I’d be unable to take any repetition of the experience and simply fob the thing off as utterly incompatible with my tastes.

This, to say the least, is an unfair reaction.

So, shelving my musical bigotry, I went back for a second listen. On reflection, of course, I found more than my ears had at first been willing to meet, but that’s not to say I liked everything I encountered.

I don’t like this album; I have to make that clear from the start. I don’t hate it and yet I don’t feel provoked by it, neither pushed into thought or feeling.

There are moments I can enjoy, such as the melody on opening track Alphabet that rocked my ears into a lullabied trance with its delightful fluctuations or the electronic pulsing-and-rolling-up beat replete with cleanly plucked guitar that echoes Radiohead on Sick.

Similarly, the latter half of No One Can Ever Know is studded with fragments that soothe my ears with a similar charm.

But there are also the repetitions on songs like Nil and Another Bed that swill around my head like the despondent cries of a heartbroken drunk, wailing outside the wrong window at three in the morning.

Others such as Dead City simply leave me feeling indifferent, waiting for them to be over. Others bring back unhappy memories of listening to the cold, ecclesiastical false-prophesying of Editors. At such points, the band sound like they’ve been recorded in an abbey whose congregation has long since departed.

For all these associations, I was never able to escape my initial difficulties in listening to the album, and found its songs difficult to differentiate. There is a blandness to No One Can Ever Know that seems needless, given The Twilight Sad’s melodic talents.

Something about the production lends the whole album a blown-over, drowned out quality; as if it were being heard through the rush of an unrelenting gale in the studio.

The more I listen to it, the more I want its first number to somehow spawn an album all of its own. The virtue I find in Alphabet has to do with a certain abstraction imparted to the lyrics by the ring of James Graham’s voice.

As he bends them to his will and course Scottish tones they become more than just language, whilst Andy MacFarlane’s music behind confidently throbs in its unhurried drone.

It would be remiss of me to say No One Can Ever Know is badly executed, it really isn’t. But throughout it projects a steady, grey tone that makes it too hard for me to enjoy.

And by that I don’t simply mean that it isn’t ecstatic, there’s nothing to say a good album must be joyful. But neither do the boys from Kilsyth locate the precise site of the pain they seem to depict and which subsequently informs their music.

This sense of dislocation and distance that floods the album is my real problem with The Twilight Sad’s new album, as I can’t help but feel this in itself is too strong and too alienating to invite a response.

James Munroe

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January 2012
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