The Twilight Sad – Live 2022 EP 4

Posted: 7 May 2023 in Singles and EPs
Tags: , , , , , , ,

5th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Back in the day – that is the 80s and 90s and the time before YouTube and pretty much all things Internet – bands of a certain status would find their live shows being released first as crappy tapes on market stalls with even crappier photocopied sleeves for £3.50 a pop, and later, on CDs which flooded record fares at £12 a go (and for the bands with a real cult following, the late 880s and early 90s there were heaps of vinyl pressings, too). Most of them sounded terrible, but fans lapped them up because they’d buy anything, especially from a show or tour they’d attended. And it wasn’t always the biggest artists who were the most heavily bootlegged: it tended to be the bands with the most hardcore cult followings, which explains why The Sisters of Mercy were more bootlegged than Prince.

The Internet and YouTube and technology in general has changed things rather, in that anyone with a smartphone can upload footage of a show within seconds of the event, even sharing, say, an unreleased song in real-time. But if the quality of 80s audience recorded live bootlegs was ropey, shaky footage of an artist shot on a mobile phone from the third row while the individual dances, slightly drunk, while being jostled about is infinitely worse.

This is where the self-documenting methodology of acts like Throbbing Gristle are the answer. ‘Beat the bootleggers’ was a slogan I heard in the 90s. I always thought it was fair in principle, but the kind of people who bought the shitty tapes at the market already owned everything on every format, so the idea that they were stealing from the artist seemed questionable. Anyway, some acts made it work for them, with Throbbing Gristle’s 24 Hours box set, which contained tapes of their last twenty-four live shows, making most of the boxes different from one another, being an obvious example.

Live 2022 EP 4 shares two tracks with its recent predecessor, EP 3, namely ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ and ‘That Summer, At Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy’, both from their debut album and both set staples to this day. There’d be riots if they weren’t. And the point of these EP releases is really for the fans – the hardcore devotees who want to hear the details of the differences of the performances from every show, and I get it: consecutive nights on a tour can sound and feel so different, dependent on so many variables, not least of all venue, location, audience, band. If you’re not convinced, go and watch and compare a band playing Glasgow and Nottingham on consecutive nights.

This EP, recorded in Belfast, is certainly different from its predecessor, recorded in London, not least of all because this is an acoustic set performed by James and Andy alone, and it contains six songs against the four off the last one. Personally, a large part of the appeal of The Twilight Sad is the ear-splitting volume and intensity, but as these versions highlight, they’re a consummate live act.

‘VTR’ is a song that loses none its potency with a stripped-back arrangement, while ‘Last January’ lends itself particularly well to the acoustic treatment with its aching melancholy emanating from every note with poised perfection. Much is often made of the passion behind James Graham’s vocals, but rather less tends to be made of the fact he has a magnificent voice, and it’s never been more apparent than here.

In context, ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’ doesn’t suffer from the absence of the blasting crescendo finale, and the quality of both the songwriting and the musicianship shine through.



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