Saturday, 11 February 2012

The cunt sits at his desk and he's plotting away







 
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The Twilight Sad, @ The Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow, 09-02-12
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It's about loss and death, the hipstah boy with a sharp haircut and letterbox-framed glasses, ponders. It's about past mistakes and associated bitter regrets, the petite girl with a heavily inked back whispers to a friend. It's a homage to post-punk and the memory of Curtis, the group of lads at the bar bellow like horses on heat. It's a necesary step change and shift of gear, argue those in the know, who are close to the band. It's a little too cold, claustrophobic and one-dimensional... I think (and all the better for that, of course). But it is a fucking grower of an album, that's also quite certain. Debates rage. Differences are aired. The record, 'No One Can Ever Know' (Fatcat, 2012), is not long out and already loose words fly around that cul-de-sac called the internet like Aldi plastic bags in a West coast hurricane. As for the show; well, it's a nervous opening night of the tour and Glasgow calls out for their assumed local hero, James Graham. He commands the stage and a dazzling multi-coloured, strobe-heavy, lightshow does indeed create shadows of a certain Stretford local and the voice matches the carefully-placed picture frame, when the technical difficulties are resolved. As would be imagined and expected, the set is mainly populated by tracks from the new long-player but a good half dozen songs are taken from earlier releases; including rather different (keyboard-enhanced) versions of  'Cold Days in the Birdhouse' and 'At the Burnside', to these muddled ears at least. In that odd sense of misplaced symmetry, however, the set opens with the new album closer - 'Kill it in the Morning'. It's a pounding, relentless beginning and the set continues in this styled and somewhat repetitive manner. Indeed, the lack of variation in tempo, mood and positioning is sorely felt; a foray into the other strands of what this band can do (and, yes, does so well) was missed. For example, anyone who has heard their live, acoustic, interpretations of songs like 'Half a Person' or 'The Room' might appreciate these words. But, to be fair, this is perhaps missing the entire point of the show; it's thirteen songs delivered with minimum fuss and architect precision, all shaped and moulded by the keyboards and drums, as well as the finely-pronunciated vocals of Graham. To be sure, the guitars are not exactly redundant or vanquished in this live cowboy show at the Grand Ole Opry; more like set to the touchline to cool down and reappear later in the last quarter. The songs below were clear highlights, as I heard them, but a special mention must also be made for the classic 'I became a Prostitute'. If the band have a signature tune this must surely be it. Tonight they parade at the Queens Social Club, Sheffield; expect a storming of the barricades.
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The Twilight Sad - 'Alphabet' (6 Music Session Version) (4.17)
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Band / Tour / Label (with thanks to Matt Turner/Peenko)
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Set-list: Kill It In The Morning; Don't Move; That Summer, at Home I Had Become the Invisible Boy; Dead City; Reflection of the Television; Alphabet; I Became a Prostitute; Sick; Another Bed; Cold Days From the Birdhouse; Nil; And She Would Darken the Memory; At the Burnside.
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5 comments:

  1. You have a frustrating habit of pulling sentiment into such enticing words. Was thinking of reviewing this gig, but no need to now.Cheers.

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  2. Don't agree with you on this on comrade.

    Maybe it's that I listened to the LP a lot before the gig.....but this was an absolute belter of a night. See TVV for more.....

    Oh and great photos. As ever.....

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  3. Thank-you, LGM. Still think you should offer a review as well though. It is all about individual perspective and positionality, after all. :) I wonder what associates MM and AM made of it all?

    We can agree to disagree JC! What I will say is this: some 72 hrs onwards I am now looking back at this gig with fond affection. I still would argue it was rather one-dimensional in structure and sound, but that is only because I SO adore Graham's vocals with just an acoustic guitar for company. My prejudices are revealed.

    It was a great night, for sure.

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  4. Ah, see, I agree and I disagree. I would probably have openly wept had they gone acoustic, but throwing myself around the floor to the pounding synths is exactly not my idea of a bad time either... They had a few sound problems in Leeds too, but they more than recovered when he came and stood in the crowd to sing a few songs. It was the intimacy I was craving, with no drop in volume or tempo. The new album is very different, but I do still adore it. How can you not? My one and only criticism was NOT ENOUGH. I could've listened & danced all night long.

    Beautiful words as ever R,

    B x

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  5. Ha. If you read again, B, you'll see I do applaud the new album. Cold, claustrophobic and one-dimensional: these are all positive elements for my post-punk ears. :) Very Curtis/Division, no? I have fond memories of seeing them support The Unwinding Hours @ Oran Mor, in an acoustic manner, and it floored me how good they were. Just Graham and MacFarlane, together, alone... sigh. Graham's voice soared into the Church rafters. Do agree though; thirteen songs was rather compact and bijou. Aye.

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