This was an album that could so easily have not existed at all. The Twilight Sad’s 2007 debut ‘Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters’ was critically adored and soon became an indie cult favourite. Their dense – and intense – approach to wrought Scottish gloom and post-punk bloomed across three lauded records, until 2014’s ‘Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave’ left them, exhausted, ready to call it quits.
Enter Robert Smith, who invited them to support The Cure on all world tour dates for a few years. Hailing them as “the best band playing the best songs – consistently brilliant, emotional, intense, inspiring, entertaining,” he put the wind back in their sails and advised them on what would become their first album in five years. During that time, they parted ways with their drummer, left home label FatCat to join Mogwai’s Rock Action Records and lost a dear friend with the passing of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison.
“There’s no love too small,” sings frontman James Graham on propulsive single ‘VTr’, later conceding that “running away doesn’t feel so bad”. In capturing the essence of of the band in 2019 – and the album as a whole – it’s a track as driven by change and hope as it is loaded with sadness.
There’s hope, too, in the in the unifying space between the fear and anxiety of Graham’s words and the power, poise and ambition of the music. Opener ‘[10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs]’ opts for a more muscular and industrial synth-rock sound, but is still undermined by a human vulnerability as Graham howls: “I call you all night / And now the cracks are starting to show.. Why can’t you remember me? / I’ve seen it all before”.
‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ takes guitarist Andy MacFarlane’s shoegazey fretwork to new nosebleed-noise levels, ‘The Arbors’ drips with that ‘Disintegration’-era Cure glory though melancholy, while new drummer Sebastien Schultz gives ‘Let’s Get Lost’ a fire and fury; the latter track begs to be heard live.
The synth sounds of ‘Sunday Day13’ provides some pensive breathing space, as a grief-stricken Graham sees a break in the clouds: “It won’t be like this all the time.” Rather than being owned by their demons, The Twilight Sad have created an 11-track exorcism to master them. It’s a full-bodied and inescapable mood-piece, and a visceral account of their victory in the fight to exist. We should feel grateful to have them.