[sic] Magazine

The Twilight Sad – Òran Mór Session

As their fanbase are well aware, The Twilight Sad are not averse to different interpretations of their songs. They’ve played Paisley Abbey with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, they’ve busked in the street and there’s a whole album of No One Can Ever Know remixes. The internet (and bootlegs) are awash with various cover versions plus a slew of those ubiquitous US radio sessions. Most recently they’ve been covered by Robert Smith of The Cure. Why? Put simply their songs are excellent. Strip away the guitar pedals and vocal effects and you’re still left with a core of real songwriting strength. This is something we cannot say of too many other shoegaze or post-punk acts but The Twilight Sad have long since transcended such genre definitions.

Òran Mór Session is an expanded version of the ‘tour only’ EP disc and could be considered something of a fan release. The session draws mainly upon the songs from Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave, (My No1 album of 2014), adding terrific ‘satellite’ B-side, ‘The Airport’ plus a cover the Arthur Russell song ‘I Couldn’t Say It to Your Face’. Stripped down to an acoustic and vocal, ‘unplugged’ setup, Òran Mór Session showcases the true essence of these songs. In stark contrast to the relatively ‘fucked up’ sounding N/O/C/E/K Tour EP these song versions are rendered gentle and pure almost to the point of prosaic. Doubtless the most obvious noteworthy aspect is James Graham’s vocal. Compared to the rage and energy of the ‘parent’ album Òran Mór Session is positively serene. Graham’s voice is exquisite in this becalmed state. He has progressed far, both in range and control. Around the time of the debut album I think it’s fair to say that most reviews would have broached upon Graham’s broad Lanarkshire accent. Such reactions are obsolete these days. What comes through now is the beauty.

Another master unveiled by this ‘unplugging’ is Andy MacFarlane. Notoriously stoical on stage and hitherto obscured by a wall of reverb and other effects, MacFarlane is here revealed as the guitar maestro we already knew he was. It is MacFarlane’s playing which makes this album possible, in fact. His is the featherbed upon which James Graham’s vocal can lay. True, at times I miss the urgency and push of Mark Devine’s propulsive drumming. This leads us onto another by-product of great alternative versions – i.e. a renewed love and affection for the original. How many of us have attended a gig hoping the headliners will play A, B and C only to leave with a new found admiration for X, Y and Z?. Our expectations are flipped by Òran Mór. These are the same songs but the experience is totally different. ‘The Airport’, for example, is downright pastoral in comparison to the original version.

Compared to the feverish intoxication of their studio albums, Òran Mór Session is a cool glass of water. It’s that lazy Sunday morning after the hellraising of the night before. The writing allows this. I don’t personally believe they could have reinterpreted the songs of their debut album in this same way. That shows how far they’ve come.

Tranquil, honest and beautiful work.

Òran Mór Sessionis out now on Fat Cat.

Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters – Expanded

No One Can Ever Know