Review The Twilight Sad live in Nottingham on 15th Feb 2012

Listen to the rumours and whispers swirling around blogs and webzines and you may be led to believe that The Twilight Sad aren't the band they once were. Yes, on first listen, their latest full-length "No One Can Ever Know" doesn't pack the punch of its predecessors but it is full of the same nervous, razor-edge energy, which is, by no means, a step backwards. It is also an album that, as proved in the confines of a venue that only they alone seem to be able to fully use to their advantage, is truly brought to life on-stage.

The Twilight Sad

With Let's Wrestle pulling a Chris Benoit, something that seems to be a regular occurrence for them in Nottingham, the sole support for the Scottish quarter's return to the converted club was the city's own childhood. Google search 'Nottingham Childhood' and the tone of the results would be a polar opposite to the vibe of the band, who provide a hazy, rhythmic mix of surf-rock, psychedelica and C86 that takes a similar root to Vampire Weekend but with a much more interesting approach, akin to Wild Nothing or Galaxie 500.

They are at odds with the headliners but this suits more than a sound-alike would, as The Twilight Sad are often at a band at odds with themselves. Their birth may have been built on squalls of guitar noise and lyrics that spoke of despair and isolation but there has always been an 'other'; gaps in the storm that at the very least deepen the depth of the stare of its eye.

It is something that is used much more often and much more effectively on 'No one Can Ever Know'. Around the time of 'Forget The Night Ahead', their guitar-led assault had gone past the point of relentless and at times past the point of enjoyment, with the heart of most songs completely obscured. The addition of a more electronic sound to more recent material, with founding guitarist Andy Macfarlane utilising synthesisers and a laptop, offers a completely new dimension to the band and also revitalises older tracks.

Opening with 'Kill It In The Morning', the closer from their latest full-length and current owner of 2012's best bassline, they immediately hit peak form. It takes the bands traditional schematics and puts it through an industrial shredder, with a rhythm section that brings to mind Bauhaus or Einsturzende Neubaten. That wall of noise is still present but it lurks instead of envelops. Vocalist James Graham's dead-pan, accented delivery is the only ever-present but this is by no means a bad thing.

'Sick' and 'Another Bed' take their formula into further territories, using programmed beats and sweeping synths to create an unsettling air in a similar manner to Health and The Horrors but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the introduction of the older material that brings the loudest reaction from the crowd, which are surprisingly animated when considering the band's sound and the venue.

After all, it is some feat to get a sing-along to a song entitled 'I Became A Prostitute' or cause a mosh-pit with a slow-burning, smoky take on shoegaze like 'And She Will Darken The Memory'. It is due to a cult following that have been loyal to the band for half a decade but they still seem taken aback by the ferocity of the support that greets them. Between tracks they barely utter a word but throughout they deliver a deafening statement of intent. Any rumours of their demise have been greatly exaggerated; The Twilight Sad are better than ever.

Jordan Dowling

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