In 2009, Glaswegian quartet Twin Atlantic unleashed their first collection: mini-album Vivarium. It hinted at a great future but debut proper – Free (2011) – failed to propel them to expected heights, the catchy emo-rock doing little to stand out from the burgeoning crowd.
Singer Sam McTrusty’s thick Scottish accent has arguably been the band’s biggest asset to date – comparisons with Glasvegas’ James Allan and The Proclaimers are obvious – and little changes for Great Divide. There’s also an admirable hard-working ethic and humbleness to the band which makes them hard to dislike, but whilst the new release marks a step forward from 2011’s collection, the hard work fails to bear much in the way of big moments.
Recorded largely in Wales under the stewardship of Gil Norton, Great Divide kicks off with The Ones That I Love (Intro). It’s a minimalist effort, only a whiff of percussion appearing amongst the piano led ballad – gorgeously sung but an odd choice for an opening track. Single Heart And Soul follows, the band’s first track to break the UK Top 20 and also the first to be produced by Jacknife Lee (R.E.M., U2) after a trip to Los Angeles resulted in the Irish maestro remoulding three of the album’s tracks. There’s a power ballad feel to the song, its chorus bearing slight similarities to Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again upon close inspection and the extra polish is obvious but it’s not the chart-topping mega-hit the band probably require at this stage of their career.
Hold On is another track touched by the hand of Lee – it’s more upbeat but its insanely catchy verses and bridge are let down by a mediocre chorus. Fall Into The Party will win over teenage fans and an unnecessary, venom-spat “fucker” reference is sure to help transition younger fans into the joys of the rebellious element that music can bring but another unmemorable chorus disappoints. Brothers And Sisters begins to strummed electric guitar before building in intensity for possibly the album highlight that sees a chorus built on a familiar, sonically pleasing four chord structure that bands like James have made a career out of.
Organ backed guitar opens Oceans, and the song is another half decent effort but its biggest admirers are likely to be boy band fans, its radio friendly composition unlikely to thrill real rock fans with lyrics like “drifting between my favourite bars all those nights I should have been there for you” reeking of cheese. I Am An Animal is a faster, heavier cut with injections of angular guitar bursting through in power-pop fashion whilst Be A Kid begins to more guitar strummings, its opening bar sounding like its going to be a guitar led version of Take That’s Back For Good. It’s another pleasant effort aiming at stadium rock likely to appeal to Biffy Clyro fans, this time a more prominent guitar presence elevating the track alongside a decent chorus.
Cell Mate follows a loud/quiet structure but fails to thrill whilst Rest In Pieces probably does need to R.I.P., its melodic guitar backed chorus sounding familiar and unconvincing. Actions That Echo is more angst-pop that ultimately goes nowhere, the formula becoming a little tedious by now before album closer Why Won’t We Change begins to twanging guitar notes en route to becoming another power ballad that offers nothing new to the genre.
Having supported the likes of Kings Of Leon and fellow Scots Biffy Clyro, Twin Atlantic are clearly regarded highly by their peers. Whilst Great Divide is consistent in its quality, the problem is that there’s only an occasional glimpse of anything approaching the stadium-filling presence the big players enjoy. If they really want to emulate these rock acts then the way forward probably needs to be a little heavier than something bordering on boy band, radio friendly, teenage girl pleasing pop-rock. Angst-rock is promised, but power-pop is ultimately delivered.