Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Written by: TL on 05/11/2016 13:07:10
On their first two albums, 2009's "Vivarium" and 2011's "Free", Scottish quartet Twin Atlantic sounded like a band that wanted to get big but wanted to do so by making songs that grabbed the listener by the shoulders and shook them. There was an urgency, bordering on mania that drew you in as a listener, which somehow went missing when - after doing much to hype it up - they released their third album "Great Divide" in 2014. It was as if somehow things had gotten just a bit too neat, too streamlined, and save for the verse of "Heart And Soul", there was little worth remembering on that album, and it felt like the band had taken a sharp, wrong turn in the pursuit of wider success.
That's why it's an extremely pleasant surprise to listen to the new "GLA" (for GLAsgow, the band's hometown), which is an album that brings back the oddness, the sharpness and the wildness that made Twin Atlantic worthwhile in the first place. The contrast literally could not be sharper, as the band opens with the romping "Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator". It's barely a song, more so just buzzing guitar and bass colliding while singer Sam McTrusty croons and wails into a distorted mic, as if calling through a megaphone with a simple claim of intent: To make some fucking noise. The intro ends like it drops off a cliff, giving way to "No Sleep", one of the catchier songs by any band in recent memory. It's a rock song that you can dance to, with an instantly recognisable riff signature and a vulgarly fat drum and bass groove going beneath the chorus, where McTrusty let's his sharp, nasal Scottish rub up against the confines of your headphones: "I get no slEEEEEEEEEEp" sounds like a strangely exhilarating version of a nail on a chalkboard and it will be in your head for days and days.
Soon it starts feeling like the band has completely abandoned the idea of making the typically slick, modern stadium rock that promising British bands are routinely seduced by, instead opting to dive into more classic rock history and come back up with a renewed sense of swagger to them. Not that Twin Atlantic suddenly sound like Beatles, Rolling Stones or Aerosmith, but more that they seem to have dug up a similarly old school sense of doing whatever the fuck they want, coming off confident that their jagged ideas can get the job done better than a cookie-cut made-for-Radio-1 type single.
The driving "Overthinking" thus wraps you up with guitar notes careening into each other in slow-mo, contrasting the racing beat and rhythmic chorus. "Ex El" brings a synth in and reminisces of The Killers or Stereophonics while McTrusty belts "I CAN'T CHANGE! I CAAAN'T CHANGE", with the texture of his narrow voice once more scraping against your ears in a way that conjures the shivers. And people can say that it's pitchy but the sentiment of stubbornness and rebellion it carries is invaluable. Later on, "Whispers" reflects forebodingly on mortality before "A Scar To Hide" provides a properly heartwrenching bit of balladry: "If there is another chance, run away with it, I can't handle this - If there is another man, run away with him, I can't live like this". "The Chaser" provides a bouncy mood towards the end, sounding like a dark horse to find its way into sports TV videos, with its sort of rowdy, Fratellis-style victory rush, and finally "Mothertongue" closes with a sombre, cinematic anthem, in a way circling back to where the band originally came from; the old early single "Turning Into John Wayne", which also honed in and held onto the band's Scottish roots as something to draw power from.
Arguably, at twelve tracks "GLA" is a bit long, and "I Am Alive" and "Missing Link" could possibly have been considered for omission, making less of an impression that the other songs. And it's not an album for everyone, because its choruses aren't as sweeping, nor as big as some might expect. In a way, it's a small record, but that's refreshing because the confines allow for you to feel the guitars and vocals shriek and strain against them. It's like a space that Twin Atlantic have unfolded raunchy, noisy ideas in, as if somewhere they've gone to rediscover what made them good in the first place. So thanks, Twin Atlantic, now please stay weird and stay stubborn. It works for you.
Download: No Sleep, Mothertongue, Ex El, Overthinking
For The Fans Of: Biffy Clyro, Idlewild, The Joy Formidable
Release date 16.09.2016
Red Bull Records