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Album Review: TBA

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gig Review: Twin Atlantic @ The Haymakers, Cambridge 25/01/11

The rise and rise of Glasgow’s Twin Atlantic continues unabated. Taken at face value, you’d say they were happily stomping along in the footsteps of Ayrshire’s Biffy Clyro, but the differences between the two bands are just as marked as the similarities are. Listen carefully and you’ll realise the Weegies are actually the more musically creative ones these days.

Despite this, you’d be a fool not to believe that the fact both bands aren’t afraid of banging out songs in their own Scots brogue, coupled with the “incestuous scene” (as frontman Sam McTrusty refers to the world of Scottish alt-rock), has only helped to boost their fanbase.

After watching their mini-album Vivarium released to rave reviews, Twin Atlantic are on the brink of releasing their first full-length and this European tour of the smaller, barrier-less venues may just be their last chance to truly connect with each individual supporter. At this rate, six months down the line, who knows what size stage they’ll regularly be playing on.

Tonight they’re keen to break out new material, despite the album being several months from release, and open with ‘Edit Me’. It’s a raging torrent of rock attitude with a solitary, yet effective, stop-gap lurking in the middle that fires the crowd into action.

They step off the pedal for the chiming epic ‘What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?’, which allows us time to take a look up and marvel at McTrusty’s chiselled features, newly-cropped hair and stubble. His energy isn’t to be found wanting either and he’s keen to impress upon us how delighted he is to be there. “This is our first time in Cambridge and we’re blown away by how many of you have come out”, he grins before describing the city as having “a nice little community”.

The other band members seem a little squeezed on this tiny Haymakers stage with bassist Ross McNae and classically-trained guitarist Barry McKenna often disappearing behind the cumbersomely large speaker stacks. Lurking at the back, the moustache and striped t-shirt combo of drummer Craig Kneale is almost cartoonish – think Popeye, Animal (The Muppets) and Ron Mael (Sparks) all rolled into one. As the quartet batter out their more well-known songs like ‘Human After All’, ‘Better Weather’ and ‘Caribbean War Syndrome’ those gathered move from a respectable stance of quiet appreciation and head-nodding to mouthing lyrics, whooping and fist-clenching.

McTrusty lifts his game further by evolving a deliberate, vicious twitch before delivering his more potent lines (“Blow these fuckers away!”, for instance, from ‘Caribbean War Syndrome’) and, for ‘Audience And Audio’, sinking to his knees to lash out a solo. “Shhhh!” he playfully admonishes, during a break between songs, before following with “This is the warmest/drunkest day of the tour so far” as if those two perceptions go hand-in-hand. Someone responds by shouting if he wants a drink, to which he appreciatively orders “a JD and coke”. It seems they are connected after all!

Each song feels more vital, more anthemic in a live venue. It’s a joy to witness the multiple nuances like McKenna’s electric cello (and his jumping around while playing it), McTrusty’s basic effect of tapping his guitar lead on the connector (to create the on-off buzz that opens the show-stopping ‘Lightspeed’) or the harrowing emotion that sits on the players’ face as they perform their subtler numbers. This all builds to create an unstoppable force, so when they unleash another newbie, the smoother, less anarchic ‘Apocalyptic Renegade’, the crowd are happy to greet it as one of their own.

As a parting gift, McTrusty dedicates the final song, their trump card ‘You’re Turning Into John Wayne’, to McKenna’s passport offering us the information that they’re heading to Germany now and their are seven of them, but only six passports. “You make up the punchline”, he quips before bringing the house down with the line “Have you lost your latitude and longitude?” I’d like to think those who took a risk and ventured out tonight won’t think so.

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