With the squall of feedback, delay, reverb, and malfunctioning stomp-box sounds that filled The Twilight Sad’s first two albums, it was tempting to focus on the cacophony and overlook the sinister elements at the band’s core. That shouldn’t be an issue with No One Can Ever Know. Tapping an array of synthesizers nearly as big as his collection of effects pedals, keyboardist/guitarist Andy MacFarlane steers his act out of the noise-rock hurricane and into the much less cluttered realms of synth-rock.
MacFarlane’s tastes veer toward the cold, confrontational end of the synth spectrum—think Suicide or Cabaret Voltaire—with guitars turning up only occasionally. Even then they’re crammed deep into the mix, as MacFarlane uses analog keyboards’ wide-spectrum sound in the same manner he once deployed effects pedals. No One Can Ever Know is as full-bodied and loud as its predecessors, if never as noisy.
No longer cloaked in extraneous sounds, The Twilight Sad’s ominous songwriting comes to the fore. The low ends that propel “Kill It In The Morning” and “Dead City” move forward with a nearly paranoid inertia. Singer James Graham’s highland burr only becomes more imposing with room to stretch out in the mix, which makes his ambiguous references to prostrate bodies—“Nil,” “Alphabet,” and “Not Sleeping”—imply unseen horrors. The bleakest of the band’s albums, No One Can Ever Know works because The Twilight Sad knows exactly what old bits to jettison and new ones to embrace without tinkering with its cold, black heart.