Live at Cockpit on Saturday, 7th May 2011
Twin Atlantic seem to have gone rather low profile recently. Despite touring with big names like Biffy Clyro, Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance earlier in their career, the band have never really lived up to the expectation created with the release of the excellent Vivarium mini album in 2009, so it's now, with debut full-length Free fresh in the shops, that the Scottish alternative rock tykes need to up their game some.
First things first, though, and it's an absolute crime that support act Fighting With Wire are not headlining venues like the Cockpit - or even larger places. Their pop-rock tunes are meticulously crafted, refreshingly unpretentious and always full of hummable melodies and tight as a gnat's chuff harmonies. In another world, songs like Long Distance and Everyone Needs A Nemesis would have propelled them to the size of the much blander Foo Fighters, but, well, life's just not that fair. Ho hum. Still, the boys from Derry do wheel out an absolute stonker of a tune from their soon-to-be-released new album. Catchy and rather poppy, with lots of chunky palm-muting and hooks that David Haye wishes he had, we can't wait to hear it on tape.
After such a great warm-up, the almost-full Cockpit is in jubilant mood even before the lights dim for the headliners, who arrive to a chorus of screams and launch straight into their new disc's title track with aplomb. As the massive chorus kicks in, singer Sam McTrusty urges the fans forward as he beats the hell out of his Telecaster and belts out the song's "so I could be freeeeeeee" refrain. But after this belter of an opener, things cool somewhat. The band treat us to plenty of numbers from the new album, and although Free only hit the shops less than a week before tonight, they're met with a surprisingly muted response.
Indeed, it's the tracks from Vivarium that go down best, with the likes of the serrated What Is Light? Where Is Laughter? and the edgy Lightspeed sending the fans into pogoing singalong mode. It's still early days for Free, but it's possible that the album's more straightforward nature has alienated some of the band's hardcore fanbase. McTrusty seems acutely aware of this, always making sure to gee the crowd up especially for any new songs. He's an interesting and charismatic frontman tonight, with a distinctive, toneful voice and an apparent desire to give his fans only good memories of the show - when there's an instrumental moment, he'll throw a carefully-honed rock pose, and whenever someone raises a camera, he carries on doing whatever he's doing while smiling forcefully at the lens until the taker has their shot. Frankly, it's a rather unnerving trait, but at least he's not sniffing dead birds in jars or throwing used tampons at us.
The band ends the set with fan favourites You're Turning Into John Wayne and Audience And Audio, and then we're done - no encore. What's odd is that no one really seems to be calling for one either. It's been an interesting hour, but one that should fill the band with some hope. Free has been receiving mixed reviews, and there have been the usual "sell-outs" comments, but it's clear that Twin Atlantic are not compromising their sound, or their identity, with their new material. The melodies have simply got bigger. Now, all McTrusty and the boys need is for their audience to grow too, and they'll be where they believe they belong.