The majority of Britrock’s bigger names seem to have sussed out that, if they want to survive in the current musical climate, they’re going to have to adapt. Big, slick melodies aren’t the same selling point they were at the start of the decade, and the bands that earned their stripes with such a sound will have to either adopt a harder sound or add new layers to their existing sound to survive the imminent mass extinction. On GLA, Twin Atlantic have understood that and have gone for the former, even though they’re probably one of the bands that would’ve survived regardless. Since the release of Free in 2011, the Glaswegians have risen to the top tier simply by making fantastic songs with insane levels of mass appeal.
But make no mistake, the changes on GLA appear in abundance; if it wasn’t for Sam McTrusty’s sturdy Scottish brogue, this could be a completely different band entirely. For an album based around the band’s hometown of Glasgow, GLA shares a number of similarities with the riffed-up, leather jacketed rock ‘n’ roll that the Arctic Monkeys chronicled their Stateside jaunts with on AM. It’s also a far cry from their typical, summery alt-rock, instead venturing into angrier and darker territory. It’s most definitely a radical departure from the Twin Atlantic we all know, and as is to be expected for such a sharp veer in direction this far into a career, GLA is the most mixed of mixed bags. For every hardened riff that actually connects, there’s at least one more that sounds drab and dated, and it makes for a remarkably inconsistent listen.
At its best, GLA does suggest that a riffier direction could be a viable career trajectory for Twin Atlantic. Lead single No Sleep has only gotten better over time with its slinky guitar line and powerhouse chorus, while the squawking hip-swing of You Are The Devil sounds fantastic and Valhalla channels the dusty, sexually charged strut of Queens Of The Stone Age in the album’s best moment. The grit of their new sound even seeps down into the album’s token acoustic-and-strings ballad, with A Scar To Hide being one of the most believably heartbroken cuts in this band’s arsenal.
Unfortunately, there are too few moments on GLA that truly capture Twin Atlantic’s new rock ‘n’ roll side at its best. The one-two of Overthinking and Ex El strips away the rougher dynamic that’s meant to define this album in favour of a pair of meek, blank-faced indie tracks, and closer Mother Tongue could be a genuinely good song if it had a bit more to work with instead of weak handclap percussion and a guitar that’s demo-quality at best. There’s a wild fluctuation of quality in this album, one that limits its overall enjoyability by a great degree. Only about half of these twelve tracks can be catagorised as great songs; the others sit in the mire of being clunky and dated or wholly unremarkable.
At least there’s some redemptive quality lyrically. Though it does have its fair share of clangers (McTrusty’s bleats of “I’m bad for you” on Missing Link as an attempt of rockstar machismo isn’t convincing in the slightest), GLA‘s focus on darker subject material really complements its harder style, and it’s a much angrier album as a result. No Sleep‘s recollection of a drug binge hits with some much-needed force, and Whispers tackles a loss in the family with lyrical gravitas and poise it deserves, even if the instrumental is a bit muddy. It’s perhaps thanks to the presentation that these heavier matters work so well (though McTrusty does go a bit overboard with his vocal intensity at times like on Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator), and it works wonders in the album’s best moments. But again, the inconsistency that plagues this album’s neuters the effect that they would otherwise have.
And that’s a real shame because, at points, all the pieces are present on GLA for it to really click. There are definitely moments that make convincing evidence that this direction could be massively beneficial for Twin Atlantic, but they’re counteracted by moments that suggest the exact opposite. It may just be the fact that this is their first stab at a new sound that means they haven’t quite stuck the landing, but even as a transitional album, there are question marks about whether GLA is really what’s best for Twin Atlantic. Perhaps it’s just a one-time experiment at something different – let’s hope it’s just that, anyway.
For fans of: Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood, Ash
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘GLA’ by Twin Atlantic is out now on Red Bull Records.