Shifting from a quartet to a trio, Scottish rockers the Twilight Sad also took a detour from their typical skyscraping sounds for this arresting collection of post-punk. In the wake of two impressive releases of visceral shoegaze, the Twilight Sad's No One Can Ever Know comes as an unexpected and bracing release. As an album, it's a spiritual descendent of the work of groups like Suicide and Magazine—a dour collection of looping keyboards, austere electronics and frontman James Graham's guttural howls.
Graham's lyrics—delivered in his inscrutable brogue—remain wedded to the miserablist school, but are well-served by the abrasive, bleak musical support throughout. For instance, Graham's swooning chant on the chorus of "Alphabet" is perfectly buoyed by the group's wheezing electronic pulses, while the flittering keyboards, propulsive drums and Graham's violent incantations of "Kill It in the Morning" build to a stunning, rattling frenzy for the song's coda.
No One Can Ever Know is such an entrancing work that even its sole misfire—the droning, aimless dirge "Not Sleeping"—can sound captivating on certain listens. Still, it's the unhinged throttle of "Don't Look at Me," the manic vamping on "Dead City" and the swelling menace of "Nil" that demand repetition.
Perhaps most impressive is the way this album nods to the touchstones of post-punk (difficult rhythms; impenetrable, cold lyrics) without coming off as sycophantic. Something like the patient unfurling of what becomes a slight, dense keyboard whine on "Sick" transcends mere homage, revealing a sharper, more-insidious side to The Twilight Sad.