Just look at that album cover. I see an arrogant hipster with a confidence that is solely from a smug inner knowledge of his own gifted brilliance. This was why I hated his first record, and the reason I desperately wanted to throw this one away. Disdainfully. George Lewis Jr has never endeared himself to the greater pop public. His reckless take on the fairer sex has forged this horribly unlikeable character, revelling in an attitude towards sex and love that would make most girls sick to their stomach. The girls that you would bring home to meet your mother that is. There must be a variety out there that respond to this self-created, self-perpetuated bad boy image, else he wouldn't have any experience to write about.
Unfortunately for me, his confidence is well warranted. Confess is a great pop record in an age where pop music has embarked on such a downward spiral that soon 18 year olds will be grinding poles and stripping naked in clubs to the sound of Ke$ha vomitting after a night out. Twin Shadow is no more tasteful than this, but the package he delivers it in is irresistible. The go-to decade, the 1980s, is making a stunning comeback of late, and George Lewis Jr channels it beautifully, crafting a cosign to acts such as A-Ha, Duran Duran, and even on occasion the down-tempo brilliance of Joy Division. I'm not suggesting Twin Shadow is as illustrious as his influences, but it's clear where his sonic inspiration is based. Run My Heart could be a mixtape remix of a Cure or Blondie song. Patient is pure New Order, those halting drums and the prevalent synth riff jolts and jerks but manages to remain smooth and flowing throughout. The closest contemporary I can think of to this record is Frank Ocean's brilliant new release Channel Orange. Even in comparison, Twin Shadow sounds like it was recorded 25 years ago and only now released.
In 2 songs, Five Seconds and Run My Heart, George Lewis Jr. sings the word heart 44 times. There's no higher meaning falsehoods to be found here, you're dealing with an album solely about love. Whether it's the cold dismissal on Beg For The Night: 'When this loss starts it won't hurt anymore / Will you need me again? You've been all on your own', an ice-man like admission of a phoned in relationship, or the way in which he honours a devoted soul on The One 'So I'm putting all my love / on the one who's always there'. The heart is always the central figure, love is sought and stolen, bred and broken, used and abused. A picture emerges of this schizophrenic beast that resides in the mind of George Lewis Jr, that is repulsed by the idea and thought of love and yet at the same moment desires it above all else. On Patient he reverts back to teenage levels of doubt and longing, chasing after the dream of a girl he cannot control 'Patient, I'm waiting for you to give up everything / And say just what you mean. On Golden Light he could even be talking to the same girl, a reflex result of the pain and hardship brought upon him by someone with infinite confidence, infinite popularity, quantities that cannot be admired or encouraged 'Some people say there's a golden light / You're the golden light / And if I chase after you / Doesn't mean that it's true'.
This duality of intention results in a perplexing mix of anger, sadness, lust, longing, love, arrogance and dismissal. It's almost impossible to pin an emotion down. On Be Mine Tonight Lewis pleads 'Be mine tonight' and in the same chorus finds forgotten bravado and pronounces 'if you can't go home, you're mine tonight', conjuring up a negative image of a forceful situation. Lewis seems to want to portray himself as a 'player', a man with a hold over the opposite sex and the ability, looks and personality to achieve whatever goal he has on any particular evening. Run My Heart is an ode to a cold discard of a desperate lover. The next track is The One, so seemingly in the same movement he pushes away, winking to his mates, and then runs out of the club and draws her back in, apologising and promising it was all an act.
How does he pull this off? I wrote at the start that he is a tough man to like, to even endure. This perplexing mix of emotions and actions suggests severely stunted emotional growth. It doesn't produce a likeable character, you find it hard to empathise with his softer moments because he takes them away so suddenly and aggressively. It's possibly in the relatability of his themes. I can relate to desiring after a girl with an already inflated ego, or telling a girl I'd rather her lie than let the truth destroy both of us. The allure of the packaging is too hard to resist though. The stunning production on the album is an instant treat, each track draws you immediately in to the moment and by then you're a captive audience, Lewis can say or do anything he wants and you'll just sit there nodding your head. The throbbing drums and distant guitar of Golden Light, the fast-paced run of Five Seconds which bleeds beautifully in to the funk/new wave touch of Run My Heart, all the way to stop/start feast of Mirror In The Dark, your attention is drawn and kept for the entire 42 minutes. It is pop music after all.
6.5/10. I wish he presented a concrete view, a consolidated version of his thoughts and feelings and emotions. This record feels torn, as if it's pulling in two different directions. On the one hand he wants to be cool, suave, in control of women, and then in the next second he is vulnerable, lost, emotional and desperate. It has no clear message or take-away. Thankfully the production is excellent, and you won't get bored. The second half does labour after the 4th or 5th listen but if you make it that far might I suggest switching over to the new Frank Ocean record and come back to this in a few months time.
Best Tracks: Golden Light, Five Seconds, Run My Heart, Patient