The Twilight Sad - Walking For Two Hours
Rumor has it, when Scottish band the Twilight Sad went down to Brighton, UK to meet with their label reps at Fat Cat Records, they took the piss out of everyone's southern accent. It's hard to believe they meant it maliciously. The affective souls responsible for Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters wouldn't offend, would they? Of course not. But, at the same time, don't take these lads as creampuffs just because their band name suggests a night in with red wine and Morrissey on the hi-fi accompanied by more than a few tears. The Twilight Sad can run with any crowd, and they will surely please people all over the indie spectrum. They've certainly pleased this Post-Rockist contributor.
Part way through opener "Cold Days From The Birdhouse" their Achilles heel/ace in the hole is revealed: James Graham's voice. More specifically, it is his accent that shocks. With one of the thicker sung Scottish accents in pop music, it's distracting to say the very least. It may also be that one extra idiosyncrasy that launches this band to superstardom! Well.that's not going to happen. But, there's no denying that what lies just beneath the thick Scottish brogue is a powerful set of pipes well-equipped to belt it out, even over the frequently cacophonic guitars and equally aggressive rhythm section. But, don't get cocky on us, Mr. Graham: your vocals aren't that sexy. The album feels a bit sluggish when it relies too heavily on his vocals. Songs such as "Last Year's Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard," which is built around a repeated vocal line, are a bit aimless and boring. But, in defense of The Twilight Sad, shame on any listener who expected something spine-tingling or exciting from a song titled "Last Year's Rain Didn't Fall Quite So Hard."
That said, the album is a very solid debut with a lot more highs than lows. The Twilight Sad will surely draw comparisons to fellow Scots Mogwai, or, I think even more appropriately, to Texans Lift to Experience. But, unlike these classic post-rock groups, the order of the day isn't dynamics; it's complements. Rather than drafting every song around the quiet/loud dynamic, the Twilight Sad complement their loudest, most distorted moments with a powerful, hooky vocal line here, a humming accordion there. These little touches make the louder moments more unpredictable, the quieter moments more memorable. Even as "Walking For Two Hours" opens with guitar tones that swing back and forth, seemingly with reckless abandon, it's all done to a melody that wouldn't sound out of place on Ride's Nowhere. At other times, given the urgency captured in both Graham's howling messages and the frenzied percussion, they sound reminiscent of the urban paranoia of New Yorkers like Interpol or Longwave. But, in a very Scottish way.
And, since there is no better place to insert this comment, here's a sidebar. Though I haven't been able to get confirmation on this point, I am quite certain that track two, "That Summer, At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy," is a reference to Rob Reiner's 1986 classic Stand By Me (or possibly Stephen King's novella "The Body," on which the film is based). But, instead of telling us their story about a fat kid named Vern and a dead kid name Ray Brower, the Twilight Sad deliver a tale of about the clash of everyday disappointments and affirmations. And they prove convincingly that a row of effects pedals and an accordion make for better storytellers than Richard Dreyfuss.