By BRUCE DENNILL
This is the album Twin Atlantic made once they felt they’d achieved everything they set out to do when they formed the band. That they have the mettle to do that now, when they’re a big band, but not a massive, world-straddling one (fellow Glaswegians Biffy Clyro, for example, are some way ahead in terms of their international profile) is a marker of where the collective’s values lie and, as such, fans should be buzzing about GLA – named for the coding used for Glasgow Airport – and what it says about their capacity to impress when doing things their way.
To begin with, for those expecting the melodic anthemics of the band’s hit Heart And Soul, it seems a messy, unfocused affair, not least because it kicks off with the wilfully out-there Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator. But this is not an album you buy for a couple of plug tracks. This is a collection you trust to reveal its treasures based on the quality of the musicians involved, and then sit back and, once it’s bedded in, get blown away by as what initially seems raw becomes accessible and then, curiously, how-did-I-not-hear-this earlier outstanding.
No Sleep is the the solitary tune that stands out as an obvious single on the first spin, driven by a spiky riff and a burly, catchy chorus. The powerful bottom end also employed by Biffy Clyro and other outfits such as Switchfoot is a constant plus-point throughout the album, and You Are The Devil takes a relatively poppy arrangement and gives it a couple of bruises and a grazed knee.
Overthinking has some brief quiet moments, but is mostly the sound of a power trio doing a lot in a very compact matter and creating a song The Killers would, erm, kill to have had as a single. The unconventional Ex El gives singer Sam McTrusty the first opportunity to completely throw himself into a lyric – he’s always committed, but when he wails “I can change” at 1:40 in this song, there’s zero chance you wouldn’t want to give him the chance.
Valhalla returns to the anthemics; big bold and easy to leap around to, singing at the top of your lungs. I Am Alive is punk-disco – a great combination, as it turns out – before Whispers, a song about death and grief that is life-affirmingly moving. You might find yourself crying if you focus on the lyrics, but you won’t be sure if it’s because of sadness or being inspired to push on.
A Scar To Heal is the first bone fide ballad on the album, dripping with strings (which Twin Atlantic utilise particularly well compared to most similar rock bands) and drawing from McTrusty another heartfelt delivery. Missing Link is more effortless rock and roll muscle, followed by the delightfully dirty overdrive at the heart of the swashbuckling The Chaser.
Many bands leave something they may like but which may have relatively less mainstream appeal for the end of an album. GLA’s closer Mothertongue, however, is a songwriting and performance masterclass. Featuring nearly no drums – you sense them rather than hear them – it is built around a single strummed electric guitar (supported later by more lovely strings) and the album’s best vocal. And describing a person’s emotional presence as a “mothertongue”? Poetry of the highest order.
Gold Elephant: Cherry Alligator 6.5
No Sleep 8.0
You Are The Devil 7.5
El El 7.5
I Am Alive 7.0
A Scar To Hide 8.5
Missing Link 7.5
The Chaser 8.0