One of my favorite Teenage Fanclub records is an EP titled Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It, on which they perform alternative takes of songs such as “Star Sign” and “Everything Flows.” Fellow Scotsmen the Twilight Sad have taken a similar approach with Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did, which finds them reworking five songs from their 2007 debut, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters. Singer James Graham’s vocals were often caked in a sea of shoegazery noise on the band’s debut, but here the reverse is true; instruments such as the accordion, the chord organ, and the glockenspiel provide a docile backdrop to Graham’s angsty ruminations.
The album begins with a twinkly version of “And She Would Darken the Memory,” which forces Graham’s gruff vocals to the fore and loses the preeminent wall of guitars from the original. The song tiptoes to a quiet ending, substituting the grandiose instrumental passage that closes the original with something far more tender.
“Cold Days from the Birdhouse” continues in much the same vein, with Graham delivering an impassioned vocal that isn’t forced to compete with the abundance of fuzzy guitars from the Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters version. “Cold Days” is the standout track here, with the band turning the song into something approaching a torch song and carefully controlling their natural urge to saturate the vocals with spacious guitar cacophony.
And so the album continues, with drums kept to a minimum, guitars buried in the mix, and the basic approach opening up a whole new dimension to a set of already impressive songs. “Mapped by What Surrounds Them” gives us an idea of what My Bloody Valentine would sound like if they were shorn of Colm O’Ciosoig’s propulsive drumming and had a hoarse Sctosmen on vocals. “Walking for Two Hours” goes in the opposite direction by losing the MBV-isms of the original and replacing them with a tapped out beat and doleful accordion.
Here, It Never Snowed. Afterwards It Did closes with a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “Some Things Last a Long Time,” a song that made a lasting impression on many people following its inclusion on the Devil and Daniel Johnston soundtrack. The band wisely sticks closely to the original but again gives plenty of space to Graham as he curls his throaty rasp around Johnston’s words.
Far from being a filler between albums, this six-song EP cracks open a door and offers a welcome glimpse at a different side to the Twilight Sad, and it’s one that should have an intriguing effect on the band’s second full-length album.