For a band as wide-appealing and seemingly innocuous as Twin Atlantic, tracing the results of their recent past paints a picture of band currently on the ropes. GLA might have appreciated in value slightly (or at the very least, certain cuts have), but put into the wider Britrock context where dull classic rock tones have only become an easy win-more tactic, it’s still representative of band who are a far cry from the soaring, heartfelt alt-rock that characterised both Free and Great Divide. That only seems to be crystallising even further with the release of Power too; not only has the band slimmed down to a trio following the departure of guitarist Barry McKenna, but indications of yet another reinvention to a more synth-driven indie-rock sound feels like swapping out one popular, radio-ready but ultimately disposable sound for another. It’s incredibly ominous in the way Twin Atlantic’s roadmap is panning out in an uncannily similar way to You Me At Six’s, ditching a staid collection of Royal Blood-alikes when it didn’t pan out for indie-rock that’s just as plain but even less impactful.
But somewhat miraculously, that doesn’t turn out to be the case, though not by much and not by any conscious effort made on Twin Atlantic’s part. Give this general framework of an album to any lesser band and it’d be just another piece of jetsam for the scrap heap, but a greater built-in knack for melody and a more interesting take on songwriting is enough to push Power into a position where it’s not totally dead on arrival. That’s hardly a glowing endorsement, granted, and placed in the rankings of Twin Atlantic’s entire discography, it’s not enough to bump up the mean quality that’s been a bit lacking within its second half all that much, but it’s better than these albums tend to be and that’s at least something.
Again, that’s not exactly a stellar bar that’s being nudged there, as Power’s shortcomings remain pretty apparent even among some undeniably praiseworthy areas. For one, the boat is hardly being pushed out in terms of how Twin Atlantic are embracing this new direction, paring their new efforts back for just ten tracks where two of those are interludes of questionable experimental passages that should’ve stayed as B-roll material at best. Those interludes are the monolithic block of white noise Mount Bungo and the dirgelike piano fragment Asynchronous, two instances where the most out-there ideas on the album are relegated to their own little corners, but when they don’t accomplish anything and really aren’t that good to begin with, they’re empty calories that make an already slight album all the more underdone. There’s not really much room for failed inclusions, and that can only be stressed further when the lumbering closing pair Messiah and Praise Me bring the lines to demarcate greatness in even closer together. Whereas the all killer, no filler approach has been a favourite of Twin Atlantic numerous times across the catalogue, Power is a lot more slapdash and uneven, and the unevenness feels a lot more pronounced.
At the same time though, that also applies to Power’s best moments, and for as much hesitation to call a lot of them of the same calibre as Twin Atlantic’s absolute top-tier work, as a clutch of songs that’ll fly at big festivals as they’re intended to, it’s hard to ignore when Power does hit its mark. It’s already been proven to work with Volcano which remains the standout with its disco strut and Sam McTrusty’s braying vocals having just the right amount of forwardness to give a pickup jam like this its legs, but with the darting exuberance of Novocaine and I Feel It Too and the bold-as-brass hooks bolted on to Oh! Euphoria! and Barcelona, the sense of arena-rock enormity is still alive and well in whatever form Twin Atlantic choose to adopt. And that’s part of the reason why Power does generally work better than a lot of its ilk; the understanding of how to create songs that can take advantage of more prominent synths and bass tones is much more refreshing than simply drizzling them on, and it’s something that the focus on weirder imagery and off-piste vibes that’s always been strong in Twin Atlantic’s work helps to galvanise further. It’s not like the relationship songs or the bending to the mercy of the radio-indie framework does much to shake things up on a thematic level, but between a clear sense of individuality in a sea of faceless nobodies and McTrusty’s ever-distinct Scottish accent, this is definitely a step in the right direction as far as this particular, oft-mismanaged career pivot is concerned.
That’s not to oversell this by any means, especially when Power has its flaws that collectively prove to be a rather considerable weight for it to carry, but compared to the mediocre slice of nothingness it very well could’ve been, to see Twin Atlantic come out the other side still on their feet is a pleasant surprise all the same. It might be rather inconsequential, but that’s better balanced with quality here than most have pulled off, and it sets Power in reasonably good stead even if it’s not sprinting to the top of Twin Atlantic’s best list. That’s probably where this album will be let down in the long run, and the longevity factor here already seems to be something that’ll prove to be an issue further down the line, but in the moment, this is solid for what it is. Turns out Twin Atlantic aren’t totally dead in the water just yet, and for what they’re ultimately capable of, that’s definitely a good thing.
For fans of: You Me At Six, The Killers, The Strokes
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Power’ by Twin Atlantic is out now on Virgin EMI Records.