I bought the NME last week for the first time in years. It was because of the free White Stripes 45, not any sudden nostalgia for my youth. I was a little shocked – not by the litany of indie bands that I’d never heard of, but by the design and writing. It looks like Take A Break, or one of those other 50p soap-obsessed magazines for housewives. And the writing standard was around Sun level. I’ve long been wise to the NME and its ilk’s hyping up of piss-poor groups as the “best new band in Britain” or some such garbage. Usually they have six months in the spotlight before disappearing. Recently the Twilight Sad have had a lot of hype. Billed as the best new band in Scotland, the new Joy Division, the new My Bloody Valentine and other nonsense. Since they were playing locally, I thought I’d go down and have a sneer. I’m like that.
Well, they are certainly nothing to sneer at. The Twilight Sad make one hell of a racket. The Joy Division comparisons are utter bollocks, although they do have some DNA in common with My Bloody Valentine. To me they sound like Mogwai with a rocket up their arse, with a little Aereogramme sprinkled in the mix, playing good, high-tempo noise-rock. The singer has a charismatic presence. He uses an old-style 1950s microphone, and looks a little like Bauhaus’ Pete Murphy. His vocals, though, are sung in broad Scots. This gives the band a unique quality. All of the bands that they’ve been compared to had singers who used that lazy mid-Atlantic drawl (even Ian Curtis – hardly singing in a Macclesfield accent), but he eschews that, and sounds the better for it. I’m kind of half convinced by the band. They were ragged at times, and sometimes the layers of noise glossed over some fairly half-assed material. The high points, though, were genuinely fresh and exciting. I’ve not heard the album, but I’m intent on doing so. The guitarist seemed to be in a world of his own. He looks a bit like Beck, but with an even more dopey demeanour. He was pissing the singer off by continually strumming when he was trying to address the (very healthily sized) crowd. No fight ensued, though.
There were two supports tonight. Endor sounds like the name of a Lord of the Rings obsessed prog-metal band, but are in fact one of those uniquely Celtic indie-country bands like the Saw Doctors and Cosmic Rough Riders. They had fairly strong melodies, were urgent and tight and bored me shitless. Sorry. The opening act were called Kowalski (presumably after the hero of the cult movie Vanishing Point – hopefully the 1971 original starring Barry Newman and not the crap remake with Viggo Mortensen) and were from Bangor, Northern Ireland. They seemed a nice bunch of lads, but I’m afraid their indie-rock didn’t do anything for me.