on July 10, 2012
First, let's get this out of the way.
Yes, Confess sounds like the 80s. Yes, George Lewis Jr. is wearing a leather jacket. And yes, Lewis Jr. is supposed to be this alternative 2012 it-boy version of the 1980s bad boy. As a matter of fact, Lewis Jr. describes his look as "James Dean in Bollywood in the late 80s." Cool. Nice. Awesome. Whatever. But, what sort of music comes to mind when you think, you know: motorcycles, leather jackets, bad boys, pompadours, 5-o'clock shadows/beards, black shirts/white shirts, leather pants/faded jeans, etc? Well I, for instance, think of classic rock--like Steppenwolf and the Grease soundtrack, maybe. But Twin Shadow is no Steppenwolf, or John Travolta. No no. You see, Twin Shadow is all about the imagery and the sentiment and the dramatics... a little like a certain Ms. Lana Del Rey. But the thing is, Lewis Jr. sort of flaunts this whole 80s faux bad boy persona, and quite proudly (and I really don't see anything wrong with that). He knows what he is doing and he isn't afraid to do it (which sort of goes with his whole faux bad boy persona, I guess). As a reference for this record (or any Twin Shadow music) think: Lost Boys meets Breakfast Club meets Charlie Sheen from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and you sort of get an idea. Yeah, and, believe it or not, Twin Shadow is actually more John Hughes than you'd expect (in case you needed another reference to the 80s).
Put simply, Confess is another modern take on 80s pop. Synth music. New Wave. Whatever you want to call it. And no, it doesn't sound like 2012, whatever 2012 is supposed to sound like. It absolutely, completely, embraces everything 80s. And it's glossy, it's retro as hell, and it's full of ballads and more ballads and then, yeah, even more ballads! But the whole 80s New Wave retro pop synth revival shtick is anything but a gimmick, see. For some of us, Confess will sound like something we've heard already, probably. And yes, this isn't anything new, it's been done before. It's pop music peppered with elements of rhythm & blues and funk. It's like Prince but more obsessed with the 80s. And you know what? People are loving the f*** out of this s*** right now. But why? Isn't it just 80s pop revivalism? Aren't there a dozen other bands doing the same thing right now? Well, yeah, sort of... But then, no, not like Twin Shadow. No one does the 80s like Twin Shadow. What makes Confess work, honestly, is the fact that it doesn't try to be something it's not. Lewis Jr. embraces the 80s (I think I've said this enough times now) and he doesn't use it as a gimmick either. This isn't pastiche. Rather, it's the only genre, really, that could essentially work with the source material: love. Yes, the theme of this album is love... And then some other stuff, but love, mainly. And love works best as a ballad, from the 80s, with synthesizers, and gloss, and... yeah, I think you get my point.
Album highlights include:
When The Movie's Over
Be Mine Tonight
In the end though, I'll admit this: George Lewis Jr.'s whole image may be artificial and fake and not real, but so what? Yeah, this isn't the 80s anymore, I think we all get that. But some of us like the 80s because we actually lived it and enjoyed it. Others, because it is something that is foreign, and weird, and maybe interesting because, well, it's foreign and weird! And then others, maybe they just like 80s music in general, or, music that sounds like the 80s. And I'm not sure I've totally figured out Lewis Jr.'s entire angle yet (concerning the 80s and his music and all that) but I don't really think I need to. And for the time being, Confess does what it tries to do very well. And for me, that's quite alright.
on October 14, 2012
So how did I come by Twin Shadow? To be honest, I saw his album cover on both AMG and Pitchfork and was instantly intrigued by the, perhaps unintentional, nod to the cover of the Prince single "Kiss" (it's hanging on my wall, actually, and if you haven't seen it, go Goog it and see... funky, huh?)
Now, so what-- I see someone's album cover and it reminds me of something I like, or, some /image/ that has amused me. Is that enough to click on said pic and read a review? ... ...I was bored, and, hey, Prince is sitting on his Purple Vault like some Purple Troll, even keeping his latest recordings under wraps for the moment, and I'm just thirstin' for some purple drank (I'm really quite clean and boring and happen to mean the music, so, I shouldn't really use that pun, sorry). Anyway, dude may or may not be invoking Christopher Tracy and his funkadelic Parade, so, heck, why not, I got nothin' else to do, may as well skim a review and see if Mr. Nelson is mentioned-- possibly. Like, what's this dude doin', anyway-- brown man with pompadour, leather jacket, forlorn expression...
I click, I read, I skim, I see Morrissey mentioned, and Human League and Depeche Mode. Eyebrows twitch, I decide to file it away in messy desktop of investigative possibilities and then proceed to go about my work of reading up on reviews of some long lost 70s band or something. Maybe read about Rotary Connection, and why that shite never caught on... ... etc. etc.
Well, my good friends at Amazon happen to post a FREE DOWNLOAD of this "Mr. Twin Shadow" (whose name, incidentally, also happens to make me think of my old G.I. Joe personal fav-- STORM SHADOW, anyone?) C'ma, dork out with me. Nerds.
I see more tasteful design and packaging (I went to art school, I like these things, there are both an "i" and "art" in the word "artifice," I appreciate a good presentation, and so should you, just back it up or DELIVER and bring the CONTENT). I see something that fades to frigging purple and makes me think of David Lynch's "Lost Highway." This guy is hitting buttons I'm not sure he cares about. Anyway, I d/l. Thank you, Amazon and Mr. Lewis and 4AD.
Okay, he's on 4AD, says so in the notes. Now, back in the day, 4AD had some of the sweetest packaging and most tasteful design in the business. They also put out some great albums (there are a bunch, if I hear The Breeder's "Last Splash" one more time I might just take up smoking for the post-coital comedown rep that nicotine seems to have). Anyway, fate is trying to punch me in the face with this sweet set-up, and I just might let it, because it proceeds to make me punch-drunk silly.
I put the song in a mix with some other Amazon freebies and go out with enormous headphones and proper shoes. I walk and rock. Try it, it keeps the little brain happy while the big brain can work uninterrupted. Plus, it's good for you. So long as you watch out for traffic. Don't walk and drive, kids. Or drink and write.
It's in the mix somewhere, and I hear some cool tunes, actually, for the most part. (Thank you, Amazon.) So, some track comes on, and it's all up in my face. It goes on for four and a half minutes about how it needs five seconds. It surges and twists and turns, crescendos and collapses, jitters, cuts loose and cuts a rug, rocks out with it's c_ck out and it's heart on it's sleeve (but somehow, with that exposure, you just can't get to that heart, even though you try vainly for 4:30.) I am bemused, semi-bewitched, and just about giddy about how this cheeky aural adventure leaped out and reached for my non-lapels. It's dance-y, has old man guitars in it, feels like a cyberpunk American Graffiti, and has nerdy-ass hooks that make me ashamed of myself. It's dynamic, and has non-invasive repetition. It's very alive and direct and achieves attention. Sh_t. WTFunk? Well, it's not particularly "funky," it's nouveau wave that's been bitten by some snarling pop punk and delivered with more panache than either genre has ever managed to muster up. Brevity says: it's good, fun, energetic, and has toes in the past but feet in the future. If you like a sonic theme park, it's a good ride. It might even make you feel good, or mean something in particular to you and your situation.
I get this album.
I am, initially, wondering where the pink elephant of insistent luminous synths and good old guitar enthusiasm went to. The cooler-than-I'll-ever-be vibe gets a bit fluffy. I start to feel feverish, start to feel to popped to party. Start to get all scrunched and whiny and start thinking a bit about much of modern POP rock and how much I don't like it. At first, well, I just felt like "This is giving me the One Republic heebies." And that guy seems nice as pie but I hate his music. And then, something that kind of deflated my POP heart, starts to rise, and I'm FINE with the hot air. I start wanting to hear this album. And it gets it's ACTUAL hooks in me. This album is loaded with hooks. It could be used in the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. My god, the hooks. They tore into my brain. This a POP rock album of the highest order. It's so poppy, so GOOD and poppy. It's POPP. eFFING four letter word!
I've read reviews about people not being too happy with this album, but really liking the first. Well, I, of course, went right out and got his first (street team b_tch that I am.) Reviewers felt that he went too bright and bold on this latest release, that his first was more intricate and textured-- precious, probably. And they are right. Forget is a masterful album, and it's awash in details, detours, ideas-- but also, conviction! My take is that he HAS dialed back alot of the noodley bits, gone "straight to the heart" of each song. And he gets there. Confess is clean, sleek, direct, disciplined and unrelenting. Usually I'm not into some of that bag, because usually, when an artist does some of that, things get vacuous and cold and TOTALLY BORING. This guy is dangerous. He can give you the ornate, he can give you the refined, and he can deliver on both each time. If he can find the album between Forget and Confess, NO ONE WILL BE ABLE TO DENY HIM. And there will again be an album that everybody will be listening to. Remember some of that back in the day? In the fractured, or multi-faceted world of the music buying public, there aren't many consensus artists out there. This guy might give alot of people that 80s nostalgia trip with the horny croon and neon synths, but more importantly, the real "80s nostalgic" thing shouldn't be in the sonics but in the way this guy makes music that teenyboppers, rappers, alt. rockers, headbangers, moms and dads etc. could possibly listen to. He could be that good. Or it could be a flash in the pan. We'll have to see.
One last note about Forget (his first album)-- FINALLY, someone takes all of the groovy "science-documentary" sounds from high school and actually makes great pop-fringe SONGS out of them. Is it just me or do you wish that "the Mighty Mitochondria!" could finally step up and rock the house!!! This Floridian did it. And now he lives in Brooklyn. Just my luck.