There are a number of things that The Twilight Sad do rather well on Forget The Night Ahead; things that their last album, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, also did rather well. Guitars crunch malevolently, creating the best walls of fug since Daydream Nation.
Emotion, pent-up or otherwise, lingers in shadows, harkening back to the best proponents of the original post-punk movement. Drums pound like golf-sized hailstones hitting a corrugated iron roof. And rather than becoming obsessed with the all-too-familiar rock-rebel craft of directionless noise-making, the Scottish quartet offer glimpses of melody, something for the common man to grasp on to.
A sound to fill stadiums, then? Well yes, in many ways. But the thing that, at least for now, separates this band from the likes of Editors, Bloc Party and, dare it be said, Snow Patrol, is the band’s front man and lyricist, James Graham. Graham, like his closest forebear, Ian Curtis, fearlessly conjures words from the darkest places of his past. But his flat-voweled disclosures are oblique and loosely-woven, emanating from the songs like barely visible apparitions destined for a bleak fate. It is, at times, like being privy to a troubled man’s catharsis.
Forget The Night Ahead sees The Twilight Sad walking the same saturnine path. Graham is still fraught with the turmoil of his youth and the landscape is as dark, dank and unforgiving as before. It’s a twisted concoction that seems to feed off itself. During Reflection Of The Television, Graham repeatedly utters “There’s people downstairs / there’s people downstairs / there’s people downstairs” as drums slap-dum-dum-slap. It’s as though he were goading guitarist Andy MacFarlane into a vengeful retort. Unable to resist provocation, the song vents its own spleen and explodes as a wave of concussive, overdriven barbarism.
With the lid blown off, I Became A Prostitute goes for the more conventional opening riff-verse-chorus song construction. Again, it hits its mark in a haze of bluster. But it’s at this stage that things go slightly awry. Yes, this is a band that creates desolate moods and evokes murky visions of the past but, as with anything, there are pitfalls that need to sidestepped.
Seven Years Of Letters and Made To Disappear simply aren’t as satisfying as the opening double salvo. Worse still, the latter exposes Graham’s vocal shortcomings. While he always emotes with conviction, Graham’s nasal timbre can feel like one more jarring noise amid the guitar-heavy maelstrom.
Moreover, there is a worrying predictability in evidence, and the sound of a band happy going over trodden ground. The Room is a good example. Simple piano chords overlay 4/4 beat drum pounding. It is, for once, forgiving and noiseless. Graham recalls his youth and speaks of a creepy “grandson’s toy in the corner.” And as the song gradually erupts into an angry cacophony there’s a nagging, ooh-couldn’t-see-that-coming sense of inevitability. It’s not really a criticism, as much as it is a frustration. That Birthday Present is, again, a furious torrent of devil-bating noise, but that is all it is.
Happily, Interrupted strikes the right balance between noise-making and the evocation of something that hits the gut and not merely the eardrum. Graham mutters “It’s you and I / you and I,” speaking of a love frustrated, as MacFarlane drives the message home with the album’s best, and probably simplest, fretwork. Further positives come in the form of experimental interludes Floorboards Under The Bed and Scissors which, musically at least, hint at a less predictable future for the band.
Forget The Night Ahead is the reassertion of The Twilight Sad’s brutal art. But reassertion can so easily slide into repetition, as is occasionally the case here. There’s no reason why this band’s future can’t be a very positive one, but one can’t help feel it rests on Graham, and his personal and very public attempts to exorcise his many demons.