Adam Stafford & The Twilight Sad – Live at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh, 16th November 2011
I remember the first time I saw the Twilight Sad. They played in Bannerman’s in August 2007, with Popup and Dumb Instrument, and I remember bumping into at least half a dozen people from different bands, all excited to hear this new Scottish band who most of us happened to have heard about first from American blogs, oddly enough.
It was similar last night actually, in the sense that having gone along with Ian, we ended up bumping into loads of local music people. Clearly something about the Twilight Sad excites music people.
Before we get into that though, fucking hell, Adam Stafford! Now, I enjoyed his latest album Build a Harbour Immediately, but live was something else. And, without wishing to hurt anyone’s feelings, I can’t understand how it wasn’t utter shit.
This is a man building up his songs with looped and layered beatboxing. He adds just a little guitar here and there, but for the most part the actual substance of the music is built from layer upon layer of… and I am going to have to say it again here… beatboxing! To explain myself, beatboxing is a little like rapping, in the sense that the mere mention of it gives me the fucking twitches. I am sure that in the right environment, done by the right people in the right context, it can be awesome, but it is very much Not For Me. I even get the cold shakes when Tom Waits mentions beatboxing, and he is a musical deity who can do exactly what he pleases, as far as I am concerned.
So if you had described a man in a shirt and tie layering (and I kid you not) bow-chkka-wow-wow and deedy-n-dee-diddy and stuff like that, there is nothing I can picture being made with those ingredients that isn’t utterly embarrassing, unlistenable shit.
But he was brilliant.
As I said, looking at the actual mechanics of what Stafford does, it shouldn’t be great, but it really was. It helped that he played it absolutely straight, but more than anything, despite what they were assembled from, the songs themselves were absolutely great. The performance was fantastic too. The whole thing was fucking awesome. I have no idea how he did it. I have got to go back and listen to that record again. And I am damned if I am not going to see him again tonight, with Jonnie Common at the Electric Circus.*
Adam Stafford – Shot Down You Summer Wannabes
Anyhow, now for the Twilight Sad. A new bass player and the added keyboard ensure that they sound a little different these days, but the cacophonous wall of ear-blistering noise hasn’t changed. Neither has James Graham’s impassioned howl.
Watching Graham front this band is wont to give you the impression that songs were written by the devil, and the only he could think of sneaking them into heaven is to send them up through the soles of Graham’s shoes, twisting round his spine until he is so possessed he tilts his head back and bellows them into the heavens.
His tortured convulsions and menacing, delirious and yet oddly blank stare embody the effect on the listener. This isn’t dance music, obviously enough, but it has a spiritual side to it. It’s hypnotic, visceral and overwhelming. Tonight, like the first time I saw them, all I could do was stand directly in the path of the deluge and accept the impact, tilt my head towards the sky and let them do their thing.
I do have to confess however that when, towards the end of the set, they played a handful of songs from their incredible debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, I was reminded of the fact that they have yet to really do anything that has thrilled me quite as much as those early songs. Mind you, live is often not really the right setting to judge new material, and with their promises that the new album is going to be unlike the previous two I find myself genuinely intrigued to hear what they are up to now.