With a title that bears the weight of lived experience, the fifth album from The Twilight Sad (based in Kilsyth, about 15 miles outside Glasgow) arrives after a four-year wait. In the interim, the band have taken both dizzying highs and crushing lows in their stride: The Cure‘s Robert Smith covered ‘There’s A Girl in the Corner,’ the opening track of their 2014 album Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave, before taking them on as openers for The Cure’s 2016 North American tour. They also had an interpersonal shake-up, as founding drummer Mark Devine departed (amicably) at the start of last year, putting plans for what became IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME on hold for a brief while before Jonny Scott, live drummer for fellow Scots CHVRCHES, stepped in to help them put the record together. (Schedule conflicts led to former Bad Veins drummer Sebastien Schultz joining them for their live dates toward the end of last year, and he’s since gone full-time.)
On a more sombre note, the death of Frightened Rabbit‘s Scott Hutchison – one of lead singer James Graham’s close friends and musical kin – came weeks before the quintet (completed by guitarist Andy MacFarlane, bassist Johnny Docherty and keyboardist Brendan Smith) returned to the stage at Primavera last year, and he had a hand in at least one of the new tracks; namely current single ‘VTr’, which serves as an early highlight with its driving rhythm section and soaring refrain (“There’s no love too small / And I won’t be surprised if it kills us all”).
It’s an impressive example of the high-energy approach the band has taken to their latest batch of new material, with the keyboard-heavy ‘Sunday Day13’ the only exception, slowing things down to strengthen the impact of Graham’s weighty ruminations on the push and pull of maintaining relationships, be they personal, romantic or otherwise. “Would you throw me out onto the road / If that’s what you were told?” he asks as the song swells into a grandiose chorus.
Elsewhere, ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ kicks and snarls in a manner that complements its depictions of violence (“I saw you kill him on the back stairs”), pairing with the cinematic sweep of opener ‘[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]’ (whose accordion-like keyboard line links back to debut LP Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters) to raise the curtain on IWBLTATT in a suitably dramatic fashion. ‘The Arbor’ is a brooding delight, with Graham’s vocals chopped up and looped throughout the song for an extra layer of ghostly ambience as Docherty’s instantly memorable bassline takes centre stage, combining with Smith’s keyboards during the bridge for a moment of surprising uplift, although the lyric comes from a typically bleak place.
A lot of the inspiration for the lyrics on the album comes from Graham’s continuing personal struggles and generally wanting to be a better person, stopping short of disowning himself completely on ‘I/m Not Here [missing face]’ and taking himself to task on ‘Keep It All to Myself’ in the context of his relationships with those around him (“You put up with me / And I love you, you see – you deserve so much more”); he’s been working on himself as a singer, too, with his vocals ‘Girl Chewing Gum’ taking flight over an impressively busy instrumental backing.
Musically, there’s a little of each of the band’s previous records scattered throughout the album, with the jaw-dropping intensity of ‘Auge_Maschine’ coming on like the Forget the Night Ahead track ‘I Became a Prostitute’ on steroids, and penultimate track ‘Let/s Get Lost’ taking inspiration from the more immediate moments on No One Can Ever Know before dialling up the BPM and drowning the whole thing in noise – it’s the closest the band have yet come to a pure pop song, but it’s ‘pop’ on their terms.
The album’s brought to a close with ‘Videograms’, which has been doing the rounds as a single for a few months but is repurposed here, offering closure for some of the album’s lyrical threads while raising new questions (“Is it still me that you love? ‘Cause I’m not sure”) and doing so in typically full-on fashion. It doesn’t wrap things up in a bow, because it’s more of a new beginning than an end, its searching lyrics offering more of a cliffhanger than a full resolution. The album’s title serves to remind us of the dualities of human existence, to comfort us in our dark times and to keep us in check in moments of euphoria; it won’t be like this all the time, but The Twilight Sad make the most of that lived experience on a record that’s sure to resonate with people – maybe more than they think.