“The kids are on fire in the bedroom,” James Graham sings in the opening minutes of the Twilight Sad’s 2007 debut Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, a collection of accordion-streaked noise-rock anthems as gut-wrenching as it is compelling. “There’s people downstairs,” the thickly accented lead moper begins on the Scottish trio’s 2009 Forget the Night Ahead, which ups the racket-making ante without quite keeping the lighter-ready choruses. In the early moments of No One Can Ever Know, which marks a shift toward brittle, Factory-ready post-punk, he howls, “Safe to say, never wanted you more / And then you ask for one more go.” This time he’s deadly serious.
Where the Twilight Sad’s latest could easily have gotten more deeply mired in the same boggy Moors as its predecessor, No One Can Ever Known instead heralds an ambitiously minimal change in approach. “Anti-produced” by celebrated U.K. remixer-producer Andrew Weatherall, the metallic din condenses the Twilight Sad’s once-ragged expanses to a claustrophobic space of vintage drum machines, synths, and twisted shards of guitar. It’s colder, and even harder to parse in all its suggestive details, but also, as that early refrain indicates, more frankly adult.
Just as fittingly, the murderous imagery from the band’s albums and merch*, which once seemed like the stuff of childhood nightmares, now brings to mind something far more chilling. A domestic disturbance, perhaps? A death in the family? The Twilight Sad won’t tell: “What more do you need to know? / You’re staying here well down below,” Graham howls at the album’s close, his meaning, like the album title’s subject, equal parts evocative, creepy, and ultimately unfathomable. Do not piss these dudes off.
No One Can Ever Know is out February 7 on Fat Cat. Listen to the whole thing exclusively here while digging a shallow grave (hope your computer headphones have a long cord).
*Full disclosure: My wife walked around for months gamely carrying a truly sinister Twilight Sad tote bag I bought her at a 2010 show with Japanese post-rockers Mono where, in the bar light, I cluelessly overlooked the matricidal suffocation-scene artwork.