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Twin Atlantic have gone back to their roots in more ways than one with their new album ‘GLA’. The title itself makes that fact very apparent: GLA is the airport code for Glasgow Airport, which was the band’s point of reference in writing the songs that would eventually become their third full length record. While the Glaswegian band did the songwriting entirely at home for this album, their perspectives on “home” clearly reflect the time they’ve spent away as well.
Musically, ‘GLA’ is a return to Twin Atlantic’s alt-rock origins. And before I continue with what might be an overly analytical review, let me just be clear: this is, above all else, a rock album. The volume and adrenaline levels are both high, especially on the first half of the record. Crunchy guitars, pounding drums and growling bass combine with fast tempos, driving rhythms and angst-filled lyrics in a pure and highly-satisfying alt-rock fashion. (As an aside, if you’re looking for some high octane music to help you grit your way through a tough workout, this album does the job nicely.)
Opening track ‘Gold Elephant Cherry Alligator’ packs a heavy first punch, screeching through concise, stream-of-consciousness style lyrical phrases inspired by divergent, yet symbolically meaningful literary sources. The “gold elephant” in the title comes from a book of travel photos that lead singer Sam McTrusty bought while the band were away from home in Los Angeles, while the “cherry alligator” is drawn from a children’s book that was read to him when he was growing up in Glasgow.
Early single ‘No Sleep’ is followed by the anything-but-subtle track ‘You Are the Devil’, whose lyrics border on the cliché (“your sickness is the thing I need . . . your evil brings me to my knees”) and the surprisingly melodic ‘Overthinking’, where the pulsing rhythm of the chorus and McTrusty’s vocal delivery both shine. Second single ‘Ex El’ is expansive and anthemic, while ‘Valhalla’ is darker and weightier, but with a bit of a sultry swagger in the bass.
The second half of ‘GLA’ digs a little deeper into Twin Atlantic’s psyche, which is possibly why several of the songs appealed to my typical singer/songwriter leanings. The lyrics to ‘Whispers’, written by bassist Ross McNae, are among the most poignant on the album, and their emotionality is exquisitely matched by McTrusty’s vocal in the chorus: “if you think dying is the easy part / leaving life behind’s the thing that’s hard / dying was the easy part / there’s nothing left in the end / so journey far”. By far the album’s quietest moment, ‘A Scar to Hide’ is notable again for McTrusty’s vocals, but also for the effectiveness of its relatively austere instrumental arrangement, which includes strings orchestrated by Coldplay collaborator Davide Rossi.
‘GLA’ closes with two songs that bring the focus squarely back to where Twin Atlantic came from. ‘The Chaser’ is a fuzzed out punk rock ode to McNae and McTrusty’s earliest musical influences, which happens to include a chorus and bridge that fairly beg for lusty live singalongs. The album ends on a strong note with the sensual and gritty recent single ‘Mothertongue’, which McNae describes as being ultimately about “speaking in your own voice and being proud of where you’re from”.
Whether or not Twin Atlantic would describe ‘GLA’ as a comeback album, it feels like a triumphant return to form for the Scottish alt-rockers. Its organic, visceral rock appeal is underlaid with a surprising display of musical subtlety and complexity, particularly as the album progresses. ‘GLA’ will certainly excite early fans of the Twin Atlantic, but is sure to garner a fair few new ones as well, with myself firmly counted among those.
‘GLA’, the third LP from Twin Atlantic, is out today on Red Bull Records. The band will soon embark on a tour of the UK and Ireland in support of the album; you can find the details here. TGTF’s full past coverage of Twin Atlantic, including a recent interview with bassist Ross McNae, is collected just through here.
Catch up on part 1 of this interview with Twin Atlantic’s bassist back here.
Though the album was produced and recorded in Los Angeles, ‘GLA’ is the first of Twin Atlantic‘s albums to be written almost entirely in the band’s native Glasgow. Savvy travellers among you might already have noticed that ‘GLA’ is the International Air Transport Association code for Glasgow Airport, and bass player Ross McNae says that the identifier is significant to the songs on the album. “It’s not too complicated, as you can imagine. We travel, and [that] was our access point back to all the people that we love, and to all these great memories and adventures that we would go on in different countries with each other. We were just trying to think of something to match the record, and ultimately I think we realised that we didn’t actually need to think too hard. The record had been written at home for the first time, and rather than actually calling it ‘Glasgow’, we thought, ‘Why not just call it that?’ It seemed interesting and straight to the point enough”.
As far as the band’s writing process is concerned, McNae says Twin Atlantic has evolved in that way too, though the core of the band has remained the same for the past 7 years, comprising McNae, lead singer Sam McTrusty, guitarist Barry McKenna and drummer Craig Kneale. “There have been ups and downs. People go through periods where they’re more invested than others, and everybody has their moments where they’re affected by things, but it’s been very important to us that we started the whole journey together. We’re not hasty, some people will just chuck people out of the band and all that kind of stuff, but we kind of think there’s a reason to keep going together. We have something that’s, maybe not the best band in the world, but there’s a good energy there, and when we get together we create something that’s pretty cool.
“We’ve written in loads of different ways. [At] the very start of our band, myself and Sam would write everything, predominantly him writing the majority. Over the years it became much more weighted on Sam writing, and I would suggest ideas, like kind of direct arranging of the songs. For this album, for the first time [and] from the beginning, Sam and myself pretty much wrote as much as each other. I was writing some lyrics, and it was the first time where he was not playing guitar on a lot of songs, and that was giving him the freedom to maybe think about things a bit differently and concentrate on the vocal. It kind of evolved to the point now where it’s much more of a collaboration between the two of us, and that’s kind of exciting.”
One particularly exciting result of the new songwriting pattern is the variety and subtlety in the songs on ‘GLA’. Heavy drums and forceful guitar riffs combine with catchy melodies, graceful string arrangements and surprisingly effective vocals throughout the album, starting with opening track ‘Gold Elephant Cherry Alligator’. It’s a straightforward rock ’n’ roll song, but its lyrics are both exotic and elusive. “Like a lot of the album”, McNae says, “it’s less literal than everything else that [Sam’s] ever written. It’s more about the feeling that things give you in putting words together”.
That kind of raw, instinctive rock sound dominates the first half of the album, particularly in a song called, ironically enough, ‘Overthinking’. “We felt that was definitely going to be on the record, as soon as I heard a demo of it. You know when [a song] has something and it excites you, you just know, and that was one of those moments quite early on. I suppose that thinking inspired the rest of the album to be more free. If it feels exciting, feels right, then just roll with it.”
On the thematic side of the coin, the songs on ‘GLA’ are quite dark and tumultuous, but McNae seems surprised to hear me describe them that way. “I don’t think that we’re particularly dark or angsty people, but we’re certainly not all prim and proper, shiny, nice, ‘everything is all rosy’ either. I think that that’s more of a reflection of the fact that we just have been a little bit more honest and a little bit more real about who we are, and not kind of trying to dress it up as much.” He describes the song ‘Whispers’ in particular as “probably the most literal song on the album,” having been written about experiences with loss and death. “I suppose I kind of felt like that needed to be said in a much more direct and literal way. It’s not really the type of thing for me to be too wistful about.”
Recent single ‘The Chaser’ reflects back on McNae and McTrusty’s early music experiences, once again at home in Glasgow. “Myself and Sam grew up spending loads of time messing about with my dad’s guitars and stuff like that. My mum was always a fan of glam rock, those type of bands, and I suppose that [song] is a throwback to those early experiences that we had. If we were making an album that was inspired by home, it felt like that was the real genesis of the two of us making music together, so it would have been untruthful to miss out on this particular thing because it was so much about where we’re from.”
The early rock influences that have found their way onto ‘GLA’ will likely translate into high energy for Twin Atlantic’s upcoming live performances, and McNae was clearly looking forward to incorporating the new songs into a live set. “Right now, we’re currently pretty much playing everything straight off the record. Trying to put a set together [from three albums’ worth of songs] is pretty exciting, to be able to kind of have ebbs and flows in your show. It’s good to have that diversity.” But in the end, McNae circles back around to what seems to have become Twin Atlantic’s new mantra: “I think that this time we’re going to concentrate and focus on just kind of being a rock ‘n’ roll band, because that’s what’s exciting us just now, you know?”
Twin Atlantic will play a full tour of the UK and Ireland in October and December, as well as planned American and Australian dates in early 2017. Their third album ‘GLA’ is due for release tomorrow, the 9th of September, via Red Bull Records. TGTF’s past coverage on Twin Atlantic can be found here.
Special thanks to Carina for coordinating this interview.
Scottish rock band Twin Atlantic are experiencing a rebirth of sorts around the creation of their upcoming new album ‘GLA’, whose early singles are already enjoying commercial success ahead of the album’s official release this Friday. But as Twin Atlantic bass player Ross McNae pointed out to me in our phone interview last week, commercial success wasn’t the band’s main concern with their third full length release. “I suppose we’re not really that bothered this time, as much as we have been in the past. We just kind of concentrated this time on making a record that would excite us, and [that] was what we felt we wanted to hear from a rock band.”
Twin Atlantic’s own rock credentials had come into question somewhat of late. The band’s first releases, mini-album ‘Vivarium’ and full-length LP ‘Free’ established them as a rock band first and foremost, but their sophomore album ‘Great Divide’ left some doubts in the minds of their listeners. TGTF’s own former writer John Fernandez found that album to be somewhat indecisive, with the band straddling the fence between commercially successful mainstream pop-rock and the louder, grittier brand of alt-rock he would have preferred. (Read back to John’s August 2014 review of ‘Great Divide’ right here.)
Whether or not ‘Great Divide’ appealed to your rock sensibilities, it was undoubtedly a turning point in Twin Atlantic’s creative development and a necessary stepping stone to the band’s current sound. McNae explains the evolution in a bit more detail: “The funny thing is, [‘Great Divide’] was a reaction to the fact that our record before that was probably more of a rock record. You kind of just get to the point where you’ve been doing something for 2 1/2 years, and then you think, ‘I don’t want to do that again, I’d rather do something new’. So then you react and make a new record. But yeah, the last album was definitely more toward a kind of ‘perfect pop’ at that point. I think it was more the strive to achieve that than the actual sound of the music. And I suppose maybe halfway through the last album, we realised that as things were going really well that there wasn’t quite as much of a connection as we thought to the actual album.”
McNae reveals that with ‘GLA’, Twin Atlantic made a very deliberate decision to revisit alt-rock. “We haven’t really been listening to much rock music for a while, and I suppose it’s because we hadn’t really heard much that had grabbed our attention. I think that was important to us in making this record, to dial back what we’d been doing and remember what it was that excited us about this kind of music in the first place, and try and make [the] album we were missing.”
Though Twin Atlantic have made an effort with ‘GLA’ to create a heavier, more visceral rock sound with ‘GLA’, they did carry over one important element of ‘Great Divide’, namely producer Jacknife Lee. McNae had asked Lee to do some work with Twin Atlantic on ‘Great Divide’, describing the original collaboration as “a shot in the dark” that happened to have positive and long-lasting results. “We went to him with an album that we, in our heads, thought was finished, but we weren’t sure”, McNae explains. “He found parts of our other demos that he felt would really add something to the record, and it turned out that we really kind of found that energy and that spark when we worked with him. We knew there was something in that with him, like he awakened something in us. I think he just made us question ourselves and what it was that we were doing this for.”
That energy and spark eventually led Twin Atlantic back to Lee’s Los Angeles area studio for the recording of ‘GLA’. “Over the course of the last album and touring it, that [experience] was quite in our heads. The whole recording process with him was really enjoyable, and made us start writing the kind of songs that we were writing for for this [album], so it made sense to go back and try and finish what we started with him. And we knew he was more excited about making something like this, with as much roar, and more of the angst of [the] funk and guitar music that we grew up listening to and also that he grew up listening to. So, it felt like if we went back and worked with him there was going to be something that was new for both of us, and it’s worked, it’s worked out. We were challenging each other.”
Stay tuned to TGTF for part 2 of our interview with Ross McNae, which will post tomorrow. In the meantime, you can check out their live dates in the UK in October and December here, as well as trawl through TGTF’s archive of coverage on Twin Atlantic via this link.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 23rd August 2016 at 6:00 pm
Have a listen to ‘The Chaser’ by Glaswegian rockers Twin Atlantic, and you’d swear you’d been dropped off somewhere in the excesses of the Seventies. While its promo video might be missing glitter, platforms and big hair, this song falls pretty well in line with the work of Slade and T. Rex. Except ‘The Chaser’ also has a bit more of a pop sheen to round things out, you know, for those who don’t want things going off the rails too much. Yet it’s got a killer guitar solo in the bridge to remind you this is a rock song after all.
So which way is Twin Atlantic’s fourth album ‘GLA’, out the 9th of September on Red Bull Records, going to go? We’ll have to wait and find out. Watch the video for ‘The Chaser’ below, filmed in the Glasgow bar where the band played their first-ever show. For more on the Scottish rock band on TGTF, head here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 26th July 2016 at 6:00 pm
Glaswegian alt-rockers Twin Atlantic are previewing their upcoming album with a new track for us. Single ‘No Sleep’ is a ballsy, hard-hitting reminder of the Scottish band’s pre-2014’s ‘The Great Divide’ punk stylings. It will appear on ‘GLA’, the group’s fourth album, which will see the light of day on the 9th of September on Red Bull Records.
The music video for ‘No Sleep’ is simplistic, described by guitar-playing frontman Sam McTrusty as “a simple video, us in our element, our natural environment. Just playing and reacting to the music. We didn’t want to dilute the track with an elaborate visual. The textures projected behind and onto us were inspired by the album art we made for ‘GLA’. This is us. This is our music.” Watch it below. The band have announced live tour dates in the UK in October and December; check this past tour date post for details. For more on Twin Atlantic on TGTF, go here.
Glaswegian alt-rock quartet Twin Atlantic will support the upcoming release of their new album ‘GLA’ with a tour of the UK and Ireland later this year. The October portion of the tour will focus on England and Wales, including a stop at the Manchester Neighbourhood Festival on Saturday the 8th of October. December will see Twin Atlantic moving on to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, finishing the tour with 3 consecutive nights at the Glasgow Barrowland.
Twin Atlantic’s new album ‘GLA’ is due for release on the 9th of September and will include the BBC Radio 1 playlisted single ‘No Sleep’. You can catch a quick preview of ‘No Sleep’ just below the tour date listing. Tickets for the following shows will go on sale this Friday, the 15th of July at 9 AM.
TGTF’s previous coverage of Twin Atlantic is collected here.
Friday 7th October 2016 – Newcastle University
Sunday 9th October 2016 – Cardiff Y Plas
Tuesday 11th October 2016 – Birmingham Institute
Wednesday 12th October 2016 – London Forum
Friday 14th October 2016 – Portsmouth Pyramids
Saturday 15th October 2016 – Leeds Beckett University
Sunday 16th October 2016 – Norwich Waterfront
Saturday 10th December 2016 – Dublin Academy
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Belfast Limelight
Tuesday 13th December 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland
Thursday 15th December 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland