Glasgow’s (make that Kilsyth’s) The Twilight Sad have been having a banner year. First, in May 2015, Robert Smith covered the band’s “There’s a Girl in the Corner” as a terrific Double A side with the band, to the strong response of both Twilight Sad and Cure fans. Then, in October 2015, The Cure announced a (then) 25- date North American tour with The Twilight Sad as support. While these developments signal a serious rise in visibility for The Twilight Sad and a major opportunity for their State-side and Canadian fans, these projects and this news in and of itself represent something wider and deeper. These developments seem natural and needed in Post-Punk, Noise & Alternative scenes and in music itself: this is what the best bands and the best teams have always done and will always do and there’s nothing lottery-like or accidental about it. It’s all very thrilling and hopeful to know that shimmering sounds, shimmering talent will rise up in time.
In the music game for some time (beginning in 2003, four albums) this band has developed a strong stage show over the years that has brought stadium – sized passion to the myriad smaller stages that are the domain of indie bands on the rise. We were fortunate enough to see them a few years back (prior to this magazine’s inception) at the “ElMo” in Toronto, a great intimate venue where many a band have come through and usually mix with fans after the show. Having the point of comparison- across five years and seeing front man James Graham bleed and leave it all on the stage this time, makes it clear that the band was always destined for greatness and something bigger than any corner rock club, any old city of origin could ever hold when the ideas and feelings are oceanic. When the voice is unafraid to be lush and loving and suffering, even in the sun.
The Twilight Sad have to fight against a distressingly beautiful bright June day here on the Bestival Toronto stage, the biggest stage. They immediately erect walls of sound full of delicious reverb, catnip to all those who live as much and often as possible in those distorted and noisy layers, all those hungry music heads who have impeccable taste and an ear of gold. The crowd is a mix of the loyal who dance alone like no one is watching, high on nothing but sounds, and the curious who show their Toronto pleasure the usual way – eyes widening, darting back and forth like shoplifters, then faking cool detachment while tweeting from inside their pockets. But no sniping today, for it’s going to be a great day, it already is. Like any band worth its salt, The Twilight Sad can’t be pinned to one genre, but Shoegazers need to see this band as well as fans of other musically well informed and yet innate sounding “Glasgow” bands who have some sort of local Irn-Bru-like secret formula. What has been happening in that part of the world for the past decade is as interesting as the sounds of early Manchester and, um, that time in Crawley.
With escalating, atmospheric songs and a singing performance that is by turns internal and public, The Twilight Sad play with sound, rhythm and emotion with ease (and dis/ease). They are trying to break your heart, and will, but here in the sun it’s all so transcendent and joyous. As the poetic, beautifully disjointed song titles do, the lyrics sound like ripped out pages of a diary that the writer has carried around for a couple years, building verses and scratching them out; feeling pleased for one hour, waking to find it was all dross; starting again in a drunken calm measured by ounces then in the dissipating cold dawn junking it ceremoniously; finding it crumpled, thrown away, retrieving and smoothing, then trying to burn the lot – interrupted as orange burns to black char by a little voice (that could well be a good or bad force) which directs the writer with a purr to stop this at once and place these artifacts with some formality into a gilded treasure box upon the mantle, in pride of place.
The Twilight Sad is a solid fit as a support act to get Cure fans primed for that band’s legendary, multi-encore evenings yet are completely unique from The Cure’s own sounds, and that is saying something. Comparisons to the late Ian Curtis in performance are apt, and what you need to know if you haven’t been in the same room yet with these guys is that it’s exciting and scary and what music ought to be and so rarely is allowed to be in the homogenized aughts. But this is the future, innit?
With three achingly exciting nights of The Cure with The Twilight Sad at Madison Square Garden this weekend, Manhattan is going to feel like its gritty, pre-tourist sanctioned realness beats with downtown life again, that kids stil are inventing dances and hosting balls on a pier that is allowed to be an aimless hangout, that Basquait, maybe even tomorrow’s Jean-Michel may be lurking around the corner painting something in youthful boredom that speaks down the years anyway, destined to be worth millions. That in among that big, swelling crowd will be tomorrow’s bands, cause they will. If you can’t be there, follow the social networks to catch a glimpse, because The Twilight Sad are ready for that historic stage:
The Twilight Sad’s official webpage/tour/tix info.
The Cure are Not A Nostalgia Act – Are you? / The Sky Looked as Perfect as Cats – Bestival Toronto
Words by Jacqueline Howell
Photos by Dave MacIntyre