A magnificently accomplished debut that freshens up 80s new wave sounds.
Alex Tudor 2010-11-08
In the last few years, 4AD have trounced all expectations with a run of excellent bands who defy easy categorisation, so they must have felt long over-due a signing who harks back to the early years of the label. George Lewis – AKA Twin Shadow – makes synth-led bedroom music that sounds at once thoroughly new wave and thoroughly fresh. True, there aren’t any glitches or abrasive programming to signify the intervening decades, and on first impression this is so slick it’s easy to ignore the layers of details; but those are what make it more than homage.
Opener Tyrant Destroyed sets the scene – it’s a loving reconstruction of 80s synth-pop, by a solo artist alone in his room; the music low in the mix, as he lays down a sleepy sounding vocal. By way of contrast, When We’re Dancing is the most stylised, almost camp, piece of electro-chamber-pop, harking back to The Associates or Ultravox. The third brings these elements together, for the album’s most exuberant, danceable moment, I Can’t Wait – borne on a melodic bassline that would have The Cure or The Police wondering if they mislaid it, ripples of Moroder-style synths, and a soaring vocal that shows Lewis isn’t afraid to sing like he’s been trained.
It’s a mark of the album’s strength that there aren’t many standouts: there aren’t any weak tracks either. Towards the end, Castles in the Snow verges on comedy goth, with its deliberately cheap-sounding organ. But its processed, desolate moans and the cute-but-twisted sentiments – "you’re my favourite nightmare" – somehow add up to it being one of the best things here. Otherwise, it’s an album to let your senses play over: discovering the weirdly quacking keys and chinking guitars beneath the prominent synth-string vamps on (say) Shooting Holes at the Moon that make it seem so 80s, or the fluting ‘naïve melody’ of Slow that recalls Talking Heads. All in all, a magnificently accomplished debut.