The Twilight Sad At Cargo

What a difference a day makes.

The fourteenth of any other month routinely sails by with neither herald nor fanfare, but when February rolls around something changes.

Regular folk who aren’t in relationships start acting strangely around any potential dates they meet, whilst many less than happy couples flock to restaurants so they can show the rest of the world just how miserable they’re not.

Fortunately, living in London affords many escapes from this increasingly trite masquerade of the desperate, with one such distraction being The Twilight Sad’s Valentines date at Cargo.

Stocking up on a cocktail or eight with my photographic support act before hand, we arrived just in time to hear that the scheduled musical companion had bailed out.

Perhaps they too were infected by this heart shaped disorder.

Not that this mattered to a sweaty Shoreditch crowd, as it meant The Twilight Sad promptly took to the stage to fill the sonic void created.

I’ve only really listened to the boys from Kilsyth’s recently released third album, No One Can Ever Really Know, but having interviewed them last December knew the musical departure Andy MacFarlane had taken with the band’s newer material.

Having read many a complementary review on their live shows, I was intrigued to hear them for myself and how their more electronic songs would sit with their older material.

Though my first encounter with The Twilight Sad’s famed wall of noise came from outside in Cargo’s garden area, as my nicotine addled date thought he could sneak in a cheeky drag before the start.

On stage, The Twilight Sad’s two protagonists cut a contrasting couple. While MacFarlane plays guitar and orchestrates his music in a calm and almost meditative fashion, frontman James Graham channels the spirit of an Ian Curtis curbed by prescription drugs into his on stage persona.

Fidgeting around a microphone stand whilst singing his words, Graham seems to perform outside of himself as if possessed by an alter ego.

This spell is broken when the song ends, and then the real Graham stares out at a now rapturous crowd with a slightly bewildered look on his boyish face.

The most distinctive feature of The Twilight Sad’s sound is Graham’s voice itself. I could barely comprehend even half of what was sung through his thick Scottish accent, but as I’ve never been one to care much for the literal translation of lyrics, this didn’t matter one jot to me.

Instead, Graham’s voice functions more as a sonic complement to the music that MacFarlane composes; with new tracks such as Alphabet and Sick demonstrating a musical clarity that ensures you hear every instrument used and note hit.

In the less familiar tracks, to my ears at least, this is often lost along with Graham’s distinctive voice as guitars dominate their more traditional wall of noise sound.

At the end of the night, Graham sends out a last minute Valentines request for their merchandising Don Juan before thanking the contented crowd for coming to see them with the wide eyed sincerity of a young boy who can’t quite believe his eyes on Christmas morn.

And on a night like this, it’s lovely to have something real on show.

Words by Jonathan Campbell, photography by Tim Green

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Dates ‘n stuff

February 2012