Music

The Twilight Sad: Forget the Night Ahead

Maybe, no matter how strong the Twilight Sad can sound, there's just a ceiling on this kind of expansive rock. Because for all the thunder here, we only get a few lightning strikes.


The Twilight Sad

Forget the Night Ahead

US Release: 2009-09-22
Label: Fat Cat
UK Release: 2009-10-05
Label Website
Amazon
iTunes

No one could knock the strength of the Twilight Sad's sound on their last record, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, and songs like "Cold Days From the Birdhouse" were as titanic and brooding as rock music gets. But the album's detractors also claimed that its monolithic sound was, well, a little too "mono". But on Forget the Night Ahead, if the band aren't necessarily out to prove anything, they are certainly moving more towards melody and variety of texture here, giving us a subtler side of their sound that loses none of its power, and actually comes off as a darker slab of songs than its predecessor.

Never mind the obvious experiments here (like the three minutes of swirling grind that is "Scissors"). The biggest surprises on this record seep out slowly through the noise, instead of insisting on themselves. The opening "Reflection of the Television" has the thundering drums, and the guitars churn and froth away, but the focus has shifted from the storm to its eye, where James Graham smoothes his thick, curling voice into a heartbroken croon. Even when the song reaches its breaking point, the instruments don't overwhelm his voice, nor does he resort to strident bleating. Everything stays even and tense and affecting.

On "Seven Years of Letters", the guitars get that edge sanded down to a crisp riff, as the band offer their most stripped-down sound to date. Graham is out front drawing us in with a beautiful melody and his knack for capturing mood in a seemingly simple line -- here he insists "there's a chance that we're running scared". And "Made to Disappear" is a nice followup to "Seven Years of Letters", as it takes the same tunefulness and starts building a bridge back to the band's usual expanse. There's still enough tempered echo and space to fit a tight hook, but it stretches out and grows with a power that, even if we've seen it from them plenty, can still be staggering.

But while there is variety in the texture here, and a better focus on setting each song apart from the one before it, there's still a feeling that this record wears itself out much like its predecessor. Strangely, nothing makes this more apparent than the album's biggest standouts. "I Became a Prostitute" and "That Birthday Present" work because they rise out of the overcast rumbling of their sound and up the energy. Graham, whose singing is under control throughout the record, lets loose, wailing from out of some dark cave on "I Became a Prostitute". And the drums take the band on their back for "That Birthday Present" and push the song from slow march to full gallop.

These songs stand out because, for all the thunder we here on Forget the Night Ahead, they are the only real strikes of lightning. There's something to be said for restraint, but at some point here it spills over into a reliance on midtempo grinding. Perhaps, then, it's not a question of variety at all. Maybe, no matter how strong the Twilight Sad can sound, no matter how loud the drums can rumble and the guitars slash, there's just a ceiling on this kind of expansive rock. Once "That Birthday Present" ends, the record settles into a pleasant but too settled rumble. Even on the more uptempo "The Neighbours Can't Breathe" there's a promise that never quite gets fulfilled. It starts with lively clanging and thickly layered notes, and ends in the same miasmic brooding we've heard before.

Of course, there's nothing necessarily wrong with any of this. The guys know their sound, and shift enough so you don't think feel they've made the same album twice. And "I Became a Prostitute" is as bracing a rock song as you're apt to hear this fall, but the record as a whole comes off as smaller than its best parts. It's a different darkness this time out from the Twilight Sad, but eventually you still find yourself missing the light.

6

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image