Living in New Zealand and calling a group of four dudes from Scotland your favourite band is self-inflicted torture. No one understands the accent so no one gives them a shot and, as a consequence, the chances of them touring here seem low.
For the five years that I have been a resident of New Zealand, I have tried to force Twin Atlantic upon my peers. I have been greeted with a plethora of responses, but most recently, as I tried to play their new album to my best friend, I was met with a simple but effective, “Um, I’d just rather we didn’t”.
Regardless, I have remained a loyal fan since mid 2011 and have followed their journey from supporting Jimmy Eat World, to headlining 2,000 capacity venues 4 months later, to having Radio 1s hottest record in the world this year. Their success makes me emotional like no other band ever will.
GLA is going to be a game changer for Twin Atlantic, of that I have no doubt.
I first listened to it on release day while in Wellington, live texting my reactions to my Aussie best friend (aka the only person I have managed to convert into a die-hard Twin fan), and have listened to it probably 15 times since. I have danced, I have cried, I have lost my voice from screaming along with the lyrics. I love it. I love it so much that as it stands right now, I don’t see myself ever listening to anything else ever again.
Lead singer, Sam McTrusty, has said that it nearly didn’t happen due to its predecessor – Great Divide – being a result of some serious control freak behaviour on his part. They just didn’t think they could top it. Yet here we are, tall and proud. If Great Divide was a skyscraper, GLA is a mountain range that peaks way above the clouds.
Apple has said that “the first three albums don’t seem like ample preparation for this” and while there are actually four previous albums, we’ll ignore their mistake and just appreciate the otherwise perfect accuracy of this statement. It’s raw, and it’s messy. A true ode to rock music, it’s everything Great Divide wasn’t. It’s hard to say if it’s better because it’s just so different and that is perhaps what makes Twin Atlantic such an amazing band. They’re unpredictable and yet always brilliant.
I’ll be honest and say that the opening track – Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator – is an absolute jam, but just as the title makes zero sense, the lyrics aren’t any clearer. I have no idea what the hell Sam is singing about, but I honestly don’t care because when I hear it, I picture the start of a live show. I picture an entire crowd losing their shit as their favourite band comes on stage, screaming these nonsensical lyrics about pulling teeth and sunken eyes out… Like every opening track in Twin’s discography, it will make for a perfect start to a real, authentic, gritty live show, and it sets the tone for a record that is all of those things from start to finish.
The first single from the record, No Sleep, follows seamlessly on from the opener. It oozes frustration, bitterness, and angst. It’s the track that gives a clear idea of the overall vibe of the record, and it is completely understandable as to why they chose this as the first song we heard from GLA. The music video also reiterates the importance of the album’s raw sound, taking it back to basics with the band simply playing their instruments and going hard without any fancy scenery or actors, unlike what we’ve seen previously with the clips that accompany songs like Yes, I was Drunk, and Hold On.
You Are the Devil is probably the track that, sonically, stands out the least to me. And by that I simply mean that sometimes I don’t recognise it from the first 0.5 seconds like I do with most of the others. The lyrics are strong, though. Like, really strong. While it’s definitely a catchy number, it’s not as happy as it sounds. Whoever Sam wrote this song about hurt him. A lot. And as is clearly showcased here, the best lyrics often come out of pain.
Then comes a beautiful duo. Overthinking and Ex El flow flawlessly into each other and both elicit some serious emotions. Sonically, they’re the most powerful tracks on the record – Ex El in particular incites a certain strength that reminds me of their earlier material that has a more political message. I’m not sure I’d ever call a song “perfect”, but these two come incredibly close. They’re the kind of tracks you want to listen to while sitting in the middle of a room with your eyes closed as they drown out every other thought that would otherwise pass through your mind. With Overthinking especially, I can’t help but wonder if that was the point.
“Stop shaking, stop shaking. I’m right here overthinking.”
After much googling, I decided that Valhalla is inspired by a nightclub in Glasgow – the city that inspired the album. The boys are well known to party and this is certainly the track that allows you to picture them on-your-ass kind of wasted. With all the ‘whoo-oooo’-ing that’s going on in this track, I definitely think it’s the most fun, while still managing to maintain the edgy rock sound that defines the rest of the record. I Am Alive, on the other hand, is probably the only track that wouldn’t sound horribly out of place on Great Divide or Free, with it being the most pop inspired track on the album. Its catchy bridge and chorus bring about all-too-vivid images of those four Scottish dorks shamelessly busting out a fully choreographed dance mid set. If anyone wants to start a petition to make that happen on their upcoming UK tour I would sign it in a heartbeat.
Before I even listened to Whispers, my Aussie partner in Twin-love pointed out that it’s nearly 6 minutes long and at that point, I knew it would be agonisingly painful (in the best way). Cue an entire song about what it means to lose the people you love. You would be forgiven for initially mistaking this track for a Biffy Clyro song which is unusual because other than the blatant Scottish-ness of both bands, their sound is generally very different. As it goes on, though, and settles into a more mellow sound, the undeniable Twin Atlantic sound returns and the welcome distraction is no more, leaving you to focus on the heart-wrenching song that you are unapologetically presented with.
“I’ve put family in the ground this year, and I sat and watched their souls climbing high up out their bodies, and wonder wear to go. Who said dying was the easy part?”
The track ends, and just as you wipe the last tear from your eye, the acoustic guitar comes out for A Scar to Hide, and you’re off again. Only this time, it’s Sam’s broken heart on a plate, leaving you desperately scrambling to put it back together. It’s vulnerably beautiful, there’s simply no other way to describe it. It might be too soon to say, but at this point it could be my favourite track on the record.
“‘Cause I’ll keep on breaking, ’til there’s nothing left of this stone cold person you think that you love.”
It’s okay though because now you’ve got three tracks of uninterrupted jamming. Missing Link paints Sam as an addictive bad boy and, having witnessed him at one point call drummer – Craig – “Babycakes”, I can’t help but laugh at this concept. It’s another catchy number and is much needed after the devastating aftermath of the previous two tracks. The Chaser – the second single from the album – is a track that, combined with the video, makes you feel drunk – or at least wish that you were. As far as I can figure out, it’s based on the idea that Sam (or whoever the protagonist may be) is always the one chasing love. Basically every line causes an outburst of “SAME” because we’ve all been there, chasing someone that’s just a little too out of our reach. It’s another super fun one, and if I had open minded friends who didn’t mind a bit of unintelligible Scottish every now and then, it’d be the perfect getting-ready-for-a-night-out song.
Mother Tongue is that final ode to Scotland and it rounds up the album impeccably. This collection of songs was inspired by their home city – a place that they are clearly very proud of. It’s an apology for leaving in order to go on tour, and an attempt at explaining that nowhere else could ever feel like home, despite those stereotypical grey Scotland skies. It’s a song that says, “This is for you, Glasgow – we’re proud to call you home”.
“When it’s time to leave you, I’ll miss your brutal skies. You’ll drape out all your colours, but I’ll never pick a side.”
Take this raving and totally unbiased* review as me begging you to give this band a chance. They’re so loveable as people and their music is unparalleled in every aspect. There are so many amazing artists bringing out new music this year, but if you’re going to branch out – let GLA be the album that you choose. I dig it. I dig it a lot. I hope that one of you, at least, digs it, too.
*may not be unbiased at all.
You can purchase GLA on iTunes or stream it on Apple Music and Spotify.
Or, if you prefer owning a physical copy, it can be purchased on CD and vinyl.
Whatever your preference, you will find it on the band’s website here.