Twin Shadow at Union Transfer, September 25th 2012
by John Selwyn
Opening the evening’s set after a humble introduction and a slowly building progression of subtle electronics and keyboard flourishes, Twin Shadow jumps into “Golden Light” an appropriate show starter as it is also the first track on 2012’s glossy, meticulously self-produced second effort “Confess” in which this tour is engaged to support.
Gone is the cozy minimalism and lone wolf simplicity of 2010’s debut Forget, released with the assistance of Grizzly Bears’ Chris Taylor which appealed to listeners and served as the catalyst for the current direction of the band. A lot can go down in two years,(such as surviving a potentially fatal motorcycle accident) and for George Lewis Jr, the sole driving force behind Twin Shadow, he makes this immediately apparent not only in his approach to songwriting but in the sonic atmosphere he conducts in the studio and up on stage.
While its easy to pin the New Wave Revivalist tag on George and Company, the nostalgic edge of 80’s synth heavy pop bands is still, as it was with Forget, only part of Twin Shadows’ formula and if it weren’t for the fact that Lewis Jr. seems so naturally focused on seamlessly crafting hit after hit, there is a good chance his efforts and ambition would be overlooked. There is nothing “cheap” about Twin Shadow, and that’s even more obvious now as their audience is presented with a much bigger production than when the band was in support of its debut.
It is clear that Purple Rain era Prince has been and will most likely continue to be an influence on Twin Shadow’s sound, but there is still something vibrant and original about the band. GL Jr. may indeed borrow from his influences but he is in no way a copy-cat and must be applauded, if for nothing else, than for his ability to craft some of the best new pop music we have to subscribe to. Not only does he live up to his leather jacket wearing, motor-bike crashing, excessive partying rock and roll lifestyle, he also admits, with refreshing honesty and vulnerability, the headaches and hardships these things can bring. A good example of this, as well as one of the nights highlights, can be found in the song “Run My Heart” in which George lets us in a little deeper and admits, “This isn’t love, I’m just a boy, you’re just a girl”, and while he’s delivering these words you sense the pain and truth of the statement, you just know, for sure, that he has been there and you get the sense of his acceptance, that he may indeed stumble down a similar path again because, well, this is how it is right now.
Make no mistake that Twin Shadow is POP music, if not presented through a Rock and Roll filter, but there is no shame in enjoying pop music when its done this well.
Also note, Twin Shadow is not exactly “happy” music. It may be glossy and polished, and GL Jr. certainly has swagger and charm to share, but his tunes are much more introverted and self-reflective than that of his main stream contenders, so even though we may root enthusiastically for our protagonist, it would be unfair to assume he’ll come out all smiles and hand-claps to churn out sing-a-long anthems like Springsteen.
George and his band of hired hands is not a skin tight ensemble and are perhaps lacking in an adventurous back and forth musical language, but the production works, and it’s the right vehicle needed to transport and display the heartbreak, and hopefully the eventual healing of the bands’ leader.
The live show is a clear presentation of a hard-working entertainer, his trials and tribulations, his hopes and doubts, and ultimately, his confession.