Posts Tagged ‘It Won/t Be Like This All the Time Live’

16th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It was live that I was first sold on The Twilight Sad. Having been recommended their debut album, I felt a certain indifference, but a few weeks later, witnessing the intensity and blistering volume of a live show, they affected a genuine shift in my life in music.

Timing matters, and it’s a fact the band themselves acknowledge in the blurb accompanying this digital release: ‘We have been talking about recording a live album for a long time. We think this is the best we’ve been playing as a live band and wanted to document that. With five albums of material we felt now was the time.’

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t quote at such length, but the band’s statement speaks multiple volumes about the nature of the band, and precisely why they mean so much to their fans: ‘Over the past few months we were figuring out how to release the album and then covid-19/lockdown/gig cancellations happened. We quickly decided that we would release the album digitally on a pay what you want basis. The reason behind this is that we know that financially it is a worrying time for a lot of people and for ourselves included. We wanted to make sure we could give everyone who likes our band one of our gigs live in their living room as we can’t be out in the world playing gigs right now. We wanted to make sure that anyone who wants the album can afford it as well. I hope everyone is doing okay. I hope this helps… The title of our last album It Won/t Be Like This All the Time has been living with me for the past three/four years and right now that sentiment feels stronger than ever. We’ll get through this together.’

This release will definitely help. This is a largely personal thing, I’m sure, but I’ve struggled to stir much enthusiasm for the myriad live streams from living rooms. Kudos to the artists plugging the gig gaps and engaging directly with their fans. But seeing one or two members of a band strumming away in their living room doesn’t capture or recreate the experience of attending a live show, which is about the immediacy and the intimacy and while I’m not one for hug or physical contact, the sense of oneness that comes from standing packed in close with people in a shared moment of appreciation and often catharsis is unique. And if I want full-on, tear-jerking, breath-shortening catharsis, I go and watch The Twilight Sad.

The fact The Twilight Sad have such a massive hoard of recent live recordings from the last tour is good news: having caught them just before and also just after the release of the album, it’s fair to say that they really have hit a new pinnacle lately. And as a document which captures their recent form, listening to this is transportative. Rather than lamenting the lack of the full band as I watch an acoustic home show – and with absolutely no criticism of the bands doing this – I’m back there, reliving the experience. For this reason, it’s very much a plus that they’ve replicated the full concert experience rather than simply selected recordings of the tracks from the latest album and presented them in sequence. Strong as the album is, this is more, with 18 songs that really do show the band in spectacular form.

It’s a powerful opening: the massive incremental swell that builds on the album version of ‘[10 Reasons for Modern Drugs]’ is replicated perfectly here: a bubbling synth and simmering tension culminates in a maelstrom of guitars. Meanwhile, ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ is one of the definitive Sad tunes and one the most killer tracks of 2019, and they deliver it with full force here. But then, that’s every performance of every song at every show, and is precisely why they shows are so very fucking special.

‘VTR’ brings all the emotion, and dipping further into the back catalogue, they attack ‘Don’t Move’ at a blistering pace, and while the synths still dominate the melody, Andy MacFarlane’s guitar squalls bring all the noise and all the texture. And this is an important point of note: however tight they get, however close to fidelity the sound, there’s always an edge that’s unmistakeably live about The Twilight Sad, and the emotions are never less than painfully raw.

‘That Summer, At Home, I had Become The Invisible Boy’ lands just short of the middle of the set, and is everything that sold me in the first place: the volume and intensity are captured perfectly as James Graham howls ‘The kids are on fire in the bedroom / the cunt sits at his desk / and he’s plotting away.’

‘The Arbor’ is denser and even bleaker than the studio version, and calls to mind Pornography era Cure, and ‘I/m Not Here [Missing Face]’, one of the starkest, darkest tracks on the album, is harrowing as hell live as James croons darkly, ‘I don’t want to be around you anymore / I can’t stand to be around me anymore’ against a guitar that positively wails in anguish.

Every single song is a highlight, but the inclusion of ‘Seven Years of Letters’ and ‘Wrong Car’ are rather welcome surprises which almost compensate the absence of ‘I Became A Prostitute’, while listening to the cover of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘Keep Yourself Warm’, which has become a set staple and here spans a massive eleven minutes, provides another reminder of the way band and fans connect to share their pain and anguish.

The album closes, as every set rightly does, with an eight-minute rendition of ‘And She Would Darken the Memory’. It never fails to hit home, landing a punch to the gut and bringing a lump to the throat. On paper, the words ‘the rabbit might die’ may only yield a shrug, but howled in a thick Scottish accent amidst a tempest of guitars, it acquires all the emotional resonance that words alone can’t articulate.

Make no mistake: this is an outstanding live album by any standards, capturing the essence of the live experience of the band perfectly. But it’s also something that will mean absolutely everything to the fans. And of course I mean me.

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