Album Review Twin Atlantic - Vivarium

When it comes to music, those Scots really do seem to have it sorted.

When it comes to music, those Scots really do seem to have it sorted. We Were Promised Jetpacks, The Xcerts, Broken Records and There Will Be Fireworks have all released brilliant albums this year, and there is more to come over the next few months, with Biffy Clyro and The Twilight Sad returning. Next month sees the release of ‘Vivarium’, the debut mini-album from Glaswegian four-piece Twin Atlantic - that’s Sam McTrusty (vocals, guitar), Barry McKenna (guitar, cello, backing vocals), Ross McNae (bass, piano, backing vocals) and Craig Kneale (drums) - and it is, simply put, a knockout.

The band formed in March of 2007, and their first single was ‘Audience And Audio’, released in December of that year. EP ‘A Guidance From Colour’ followed, and it brought to our attention a band whose music was quite diverse indeed. Unexpected changes of direction were all over the four-song release, not least in the title track, a stunning mini-epic. Speaking of which, there is one here: a song that is more ambitious than anything the band have written to date. It is called ‘Caribbean War Syndrome’. But more on that later.

Things get underway with crashing drums and a great bassline, as ‘Lightspeed’ reels the listener in right from the off, and races along for the duration of its three and a half minutes. The band’s knack for a hook is the thing that drives ‘Vivarium’; Every song here is immediate as a result of this.

‘Old Grey Face (And The Way Of The Magenta)’ stops and starts, frontman McTrusty’s vocals impassioned, and the rhythm section holding the song effortlessly, until the song takes a U-turn, and riffs which are loud enough to ‘raise the dead, and call them out into the streets’ (to borrow from ‘Lightspeed’) enter, before a rather unexpected development occurs: the vocals go up an octave, and we are treated to a key change that lifts the song into the stratosphere. All this in under three minutes. Yes, there is not a second of wasted time here.

‘You’re Turning Into John Wayne’, ‘Vivarium’’s second single takes a look at the loss of a person’s nationality, and also the Americanisation of Western society (‘I’ve just heard of a rumour: All cultures spread, and then they pollute’), and the driving ‘Human After All’ descends into chaos near the end of the song, as a devastating wall of noise is created.

Older songs, namely the aforementioned ‘Audience And Audio’ and the September 2008 single ‘What Is Light? Where Is Laughter?’, are here too, sounding much better as a result of some re-recording. However, it is ‘Caribbean War Syndrome’ that is the standout here - and that is saying something. Opening with a chiming, U2-esque riff, there are a plethora of twists and turns as it unfolds into six minutes, swept along by Kneale’s drumming. After a storming climax, it draws to a close, leaving the listener breathless. It is the best thing the band have written to date, about as close to a perfect song as has been released this year.

So many different things are packed into this thirty-three minute triumph. ‘Vivarium’ is much more than a ‘power-pop’ record. It is a document of the band’s first two years, and it is a remarkable achievement indeed. They knew what they were doing when they made this, alright; it flows perfectly, and changes tone effortlessly. There is a full-length release coming in the next year. It is going to be well worth the wait, and the best thing is that Twin Atlantic are talented enough to top their debut. Cherish them while you can, Scotland, for if there is any justice in the world, this lot will be big.

 

More like this