On their third album No One Can Ever Know, Scottish indie rockers the Twilight Sad tunnel further into the psychic muck that they have made their own, a poisoned world of abused trust and defiled innocence. As with their previous work, particularly their astonishing debut, the album’s lyrics often hint at that darkest of crimes, child abuse; indeed, the album’s very title carries dreadful connotations. With subject matter so heavy that almost every song seems to have its own terrible gravitational pull, the music on No One Can Ever Know is necessarily robust. While they started off as a quasi post-rock band, with songs sometimes taking off in meandering droning directions, the band’s sound is now a more muscular, propulsive beast. While an easy comparison might be drawn with Editors, especially when listening to the darkly lacquered production of ‘Dead City’, deep listening reveals that songwriter James Graham works with a sophisticated sense of composition that’s on a different plane to that of the aforementioned Joy Division copyists.
It’s probably best to acknowledge the debt owed to Joy Division around this point. While the band have conjured the shades of Ian Curtis and Peter Hook in the past, they have never sounded as indebted to them as here, not only in the instrumentation but in Andrew Weatherall’s production too. It’s as if he has coated the album in the very same chilled ectoplasm Joy Division poured all over ‘Atmosphere’. However, the influence is worn well – a comfortable component of the Twilight Sad’s distinct musical fingerprint, which is stamped through every track like a black word in a stick of rock, coming through clearly from the start, in the familiar sighing accordions coupled with Graham’s thick Scottish inflection on album opener ‘Alphabet’. Fans of the band will breathe a sigh of blissful recognition when they hear that first exhausted accordion.
The Twilight Sad are ploughing an extremely solitary furrow at the present moment. The sort of roomy, grim (and borderline stadium-bothering) music on No One Can Ever Know was last in fashion about five or six years ago, and it doesn’t sit neatly with an increasingly hip-hop and tumblr oriented psychedelic zeitgeist. It sticks out like a lanky awkward goth kid in a schoolyard full of colourful ravers. It would be a shame, however, if the album gets overlooked. Lyrically, it makes a serious artistic statement, and musically, songs as anthemic as ‘Dead City’ and ‘Another Bed’ deserve at least the sort of attention Interpol’s music had at the height of that band’s popularity. With luck, these big, dark songs will get played in big, dark rooms packed with people.