Posts Tagged ‘The Twilight Sad’

Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.

29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

My wife detests The Twilight Sad. I love The Twilight Sad, and am prone to crying at their gigs. I’ve also been called a cunt online for suggesting the intensity of their shows may be akin to witnessing Joy Division at their peak (a suggestion I still stand by: James Graham is capable of conveying a rare emotional intensity in his performances that’s compelling, and at times, borders on the disturbing). They’re a band that are divisive beyond Marmite, but elicit a level of devotion from their fans that’s truly fervent.

When it comes to covering a band that inspire such passion, it’s a big, big challenge, and a huge risk – one of those moves that could be absolute fucking suicide, or inspire career-defining awe.

The last time I wrote about National Service, a four-piece band consisting of Fintan Campbell (vocals/guitar), Daniel Hipkin (bass/vocals), Iain Kelly (guitar/vocals) and Matthew Alston (drums) back in November on the release of ‘Caving’, I actually compared them to The Twilight Sad, so this feels like a much a test of my skills as theirs – and it’s perhaps worth noting that this is the last in a series of cover releases from Fierce Panda, which has also featured Moon Panda, Desperate Journalist, and China |Bears.

Now, you should never mess with perfection, but with their glacial, stripped-back, minimalist take on the song, National Service really capture the wintery melancholy of the original. The dark beauty of the lyrics, which blend sadness with a certain distanced, twisted psychopathy is conveyed with a sincerity that transcends the ethereal atmosphere.

The absence of the soaring finale may come as something of an anticlimax, but this is a well-conceived and magnificently-executed cover, and the distinctive, even slightly unusual vocals delivery, with a certain twang on the higher notes, are well-suited to the song, stamping a unique marker on it while accentuating the multifaceted layers embedded within the song’s dark spirit.

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Single cover

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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Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of Man of Moon is well-documented: so well so, in fact, that a link to my review of their last show in Leeds, where they supported The Twilight Sad at The Brudenell; featured in their sponsored ad for tonight, which is bang in the middle of the UK leg of a significant European tour, that also coincides with independent venue week.

Oporto isn’t a venue I visit often, other than when it’s Live at Leeds, but I have fond memories of thrashing a few chords at the chaotic end of an Arrows of Love gig here some years ago, and the fact it’s still going and housing shows like this is cause for celebration.

Touring the UK not once, but twice with the Sad has served them well, in many ways: they’ve reached a bigger audience, their songwriting has evolved remarkably, and they’ve followed the lead in inviting artists they believe in to be their touring support.

And so it is that Wuh Oh – the musical project of fellow Scot Peter Ferguson – opens tonight’s show with some thumping electronica: he’s dressed in a superhero cloak and has a bionic arm, and it’s all delivered with high theatre and elements of interpretive dance.

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Wuh Oh

There’s a lot going on, with deep, quivering bass and monster percussion driving it all. Sampled vocals, heavily processed feature prominently in a set of all-out euphoric dance. It’s as commercial as it gets in a club context and this is never going to be to my taste musically. But the execution is outstanding, and besides, it takes some serious guts to pull this kind of DJ / mime karaoke shit off, and it’s a stunning performance with all the energy.

As they did at the Brudenell in October, Man of Moon om take the stage to Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they’re straight in with driving cyclical chords and propellant drumming on ‘Sign’, before debut single ‘The Road’ from back in 2015 goes full motorik psych.

Despite being only two in number, the sound is full and by no means lacking in depth, with the guitar signal split between a pair of two-by-twelve-inch amps, with the speakers placed facing back to the rear of the stage, resulting in the majority of the sound coming from the PA rather than a blast of backline.

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Man of Moon

The set isn’t much different from their last visit, and is primarily constructed with material from their forthcoming album, but they’re tighter and more solid than ever, and the new songs have had time to bed in and take some proper road-testing.

‘Ride the Wave’ brings some thunderous bass, hefty vocal reverb and an insistent rhythm, and elsewhere. samples drift in by way of an intro, and there’s sonorous sequenced bas that churns the guts and an abundance of spaciously atmospheric guitars. ‘Rust’ brings classic vintage 80s electro with heavy Cure filtered through Twilight Sad influence with smoggy guitars and all the emotion. Dynamic and layered, it reaches the parts other songs can’t reach. And it’s this emotional intensity and increasing maturity that’s one of the most striking things about Man of Moon now in contrast to Man of Moon just 18 months ago.

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Man of Moon

‘Skin’, the penultimate track and which featured on the Chemicals EP is a clear standout: while the studio version is smoothed out and leans toward Depeche Mode, live it’s a sharp, tense, uptempo groove and with a massive nagging bass line carry hints of Placebo, and the only criticism is that it could never be long enough. Throbbing dance grooves and cowbell drive closer ‘Stranger’, which threatens to veer off on an extended ace-rock workout, but instead, stops short leaving us wanting more. The album can’t land soon enough.

Lifted from the blistering and bleak It Won/t Be Like This All the Time, an album with not a single duff track, ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ is perhaps one of the clear standouts. Taking its title (seemingly) from a review of the Denis Hopper documentary American Dreamer published in The Guardian in February 2016, it requires little further verbiage beyond ‘check it out’ here’:

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Twilight Sad - All the Time

Christopher Nosnibor

I could easily harp at considerable length about the rather disappointing attendance, noting that Man of Moon have received considerable exposure in recent months by way of a tour supporting fellow Scots The Twilight Sad (which is how I came to discover them, and I note singer / guitarist Chris Bainbridge is sporting a Twlight Sad T-shirt on stage) and a fair bit of airplay on 6Music. Another city, another night, you might blame apathy, but Leeds on a Friday night is not apathetic, even when it’s Good Friday and the students are away and people are on holiday. And it would be wrong to blame the band. This is simply what happens when you’ve got Laetitia Sadier playing across town, as well as headline sets from Department M, Sunset Sons, The Stranglers, Lower Slaughter supported by Workin Man Noise Unit, and, perhaps not so much, Eddi Reader and almost a dozen other little gigs. The point is, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once, and being spoiled for choice can have its downsides.

No regrets about my choice, though. Arriving a song or two into Treeboy & Arc’s set, initially, I’m largely indifferent to what appears to be just another college band who’ve brought some daft mates along for the beer and some silly dancing. But they’ve got overtones of early Psychedelic Furs, not just on account of the tom-centric drumming, which works well, but the guitar sound, heavy on chorus with a brittle, metallic flangey sound. It all amounts to an above average take on indie with an 80s alt / post punk vibe (a dash of Echo & the Bunnymen, perhaps). They’re sounding good and by the end of the set, they’ve won me over.

Party Hardly won me over when I caught them in February, alongside Post war Glamour Girls supporting Fizzy Blood for their single launch. I’m not saying I’d rush out to buy their music or actively listen to it at home, but they’re a more than passable live act whose competent indie rock stylings hint at The Smiths filtered through a 90s reimagining. With positive vibes, good energy and some strong, hooky songs, there’s not a lot to dislike here.

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Party Hardly

With a brace of dates south of the border (Manchester and Leeds) ahead of a more extensive tour in support of their ‘Medicine’ EP, released in May, Man of Moon are still in the position of a band building a live following. But if they’re disappointed by the size of the crowd, they don’t show it, and the duo put on a proper show.

The set starts with a Suicide throb before exploding into thunderous krautrock at 100 decibels. Between songs, they’re pretty unassuming, but the duo have seemingly grown in confidence and sonic stature as they build some heavy psychedelic grooves – think Black Angels on speed –over the course of their 45-minute set.

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Man of Moon

Mikey Reid has an unusual drumming style: sitting with his stool raised high over his minimal drum kit – a combination of acoustic drums with a huge splash cymbal and an electronic pad set – he’s tight and plays with an attention to nuance, adding a strong dynamic to the songs. Meanwhile, Chris Bainbridge’s guitar style is geared toward a layered, textural sound that really defines Man of Moon.

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Man of Moon

Tonight’s outing reaffirms that they’re a quality act with an evolving repertoire. They’ve also clearly got the grit, the determination and the professionalism to build a substantial cult following. And when they do, I probably will say ‘I told you so’.