by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
Depression can be an isolating thing. When it comes you try hard to stave it off with friends and activities, but sooner or later you find yourself alone, not going out except to work and re-up supplies, but sometimes not even then. The delivery industry has done wonders for turning into a hermit. Likewise, one may tend to forgo normal music listening for albums that are sparse, isolated, inward turning. But sometimes, you want your depression to have an anthem. You want it to feel like it means something. That it’s not just a personal struggle that you endure, but something that is a part of life but not all of life. Something that can point you to the beauty in living. This is where The Twilight Sad come in.
Unlike some other bands who have made sad anthemic, bands who are wonderful in their own right, The Twilight Sad have always felt like they wrote about what they experienced rather than what they witnessed around them. Coming along with fellow Scottish bands Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Glasvegas, and others, The Twilight Sad established themselves as being darker, with a harder edge to their moroseness. They’re a band that have refined their sound with each album, each one being better than the last. Seeing them open for The Cure on their last US tour, one was reminded just how good of a band they are. If each previous album was the band working on one part of their sound, It Won/T Be Like This All the Time is all of it coming together. Dark, full, levels cranked to the max, lyrics that betray the darkness with a sense of hope, even if that hope is buried under layers of betrayal and mistrust. That stubborn hope that refuses to die no matter how many times it’s been abused.
The opening line of the album is “We’re hangin’ on by a thread” and it feels like the perpetual mood of 2019. There’s urgency right out the gate. The amps are up to 11 for this album. James Alexander Graham has said he’s lyrically more open this time around and the music is right there to match. It’s all crescendos and epiphanies. Every part feels pushed to the forefront of the mix. This can tend to make the quieter moments stand out more. Songs like “The Arbor” with its churning bass line and feeling of an alleyway enwrapped in shadow which leads right into monster single “VTr”.
The most direct song of the album is also the most stark and sinister. “Girl Chewing Gum” is a letter goodbye, full of repetition, the dark thoughts as virus, replicating over and over till your brain is only filled with darkness. The feeling of being overwhelmed as Graham sings out “This is goodbye, I’m leavin’ my best behind, and I know I tried.” It all leads to maybe the strongest song on the album, album closer “Videograms.” The pulsing synth line, the heavy reverb on the guitar melodies. If anything makes other critics cite The Cure this is it, but The Twilight Sad don’t have The Cure’s delicacy. The time for handling with care has long since passed. “And we drink to try to improve our mood, And we go to the places we never should.”
The album is not easy listening. It takes effort to power through the thick material. It’ll require something of you when you spend time with it. It’s an album that will drag the dreck out into the light, even if that light is muddy and diffused through a thick haze. Things may still be dire, but there’s some comfort in that. To feel nothing would be worse.