It would be easy to talk about The Twilight Sad in the context of diminished achievements, citing an inability to grab a longstanding foothold in the industry that formed the background of their 2014 album Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, or putting them in a spuriously-defined camp of Joy Division worshippers. That’s all certainly true to an extent, but to focus too much on that would imply that The Twilight Sad have had no impact whatsoever, which would certainly be a sizable oversight to make. Endorsements from The Cure’s Robert Smith as “the best band playing the best songs” is certainly not nothing, and with acclaim from both within Scotland’s famous tight-knit indie scene and beyond for a catalogue that’s gone criminally overlooked essentially since day dot, they’re the sort of band who deserve more than they’ve been given, and have done for a fairly long time now.
All of that to say that It Won/t Be Like This All The Time is another Twilight Sad album, a statement that in itself comes loaded plenty of positive and negative connotations. At this point, it’s not as though The Twilight Sad are going to make some hairpin turn into strange new territory, but this album feels like a band hinging directly on their own image simply because it’s the easiest thing to do. This is supposed to be an album tied together with shades of hope and newfound clarity, and yet the dourness and pessimism that’s always been this band’s bread and butter returns as the default, to the point where it just comes across as performative rather than sincere. A lot of this comes down to James Graham’s writing, getting rid of a lot of the metaphors from past albums for something more straightforward, but that leads to a lack of development in songs like Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting and Auge/Maschine that not only feel thin in the way they don’t really go anywhere thematically, but play up the bleakness to often melodramatic levels. It’s a disappointingly hollow listen because of this, brimming with intent and a clear head facing towards those ideas, but never bringing enough robust methods of execution to the plate to really succeed.
On the other hand though, a lot of The Twilight Sad’s appeal in the past has come from the raw, almost nihilistic execution that has enough thrills to stand even when separated from the music, and It Won/t Be Like This All The Time thankfully doesn’t deviate too far from that. That sort of oppressively dense post-punk has always served this band well, and with a prominent focus on sheer synth lines and harsh electronics like on [10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs] and I’m Not Here [Missing Face], there’s a darkly hypnagogic complexion that can be really quite powerful, especially when made as immersive as possible like on the icy Videograms. Then there’s Graham himself, and while he doesn’t have much to distinguish himself from the vast number of other Scottish miserablists in the same field, the use of reverb keeps that sense of distance up and the darkness swirling. On face value, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time does do a great deal right, and ultimately feels like a more enjoyable and immersive listen because of it.
But that doesn’t excuse a generally underwhelming lot of writing, and paints an unfortunate picture of a band trying to keep up their image or save face, only to find themselves lacking where it really matters. It’s especially disappointing when the instrumental canvas remains largely unchanged and unspoiled, and while that definitely means this isn’t a total washout, it’s an incomplete package that shouldn’t be the case. Of course, it’s not as though it’ll be enough to deter The Twilight Sad’s fanbase from checking it out, and nor should it, but in greater context, It Won/t Be Like This All The Time can definitely be seen as a lesser cut.
For fans of: The Cure, Joy Division, Mogwai
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘It Won/t Be Like This All The Time’ by The Twilight Sad is out now on Rock Action Records.