06 Jul 12
Synth pop is a dangerously fickle, and more usually than not, camp beast. When it’s shit, its really shit. A parping, womping, tinny, clattering reverby hydra of unimaginable pomposity and bravado. Bad synth pop is Vienna without the sucker punch oomph and pencil moustaches, or listening to Hurts through a pair of pound shop headphones. Good synth pop though is just… wow. A swaggering analogue portal to smoky neon lit clubs, where you feel your shoulders begin to strain under the weight of your shoulder pads and your rhino horn of a quiff start to implode under the weight of its existence. Twin Shadow, or George Lewis Jnr when he’s getting his stash trimmed by his barber, falls so hard into the latter camp not even a collaboration with One Direction and Bieber could do him wrong.
Fans of his 2010 debut ”forget” (you could very well be one of them) are most likely going to be taken aback at first, at how Confess can be so uniquely Twin Shadow, yet so different from anything we’ve heard before from him. Whereas before his leads and influences could be found swimming under lo-fi-eque aesthetics and woozy vintage synths, they now shine clearly in pristeen studio production. If Forget was George infront of his bedroom mirror preening his quiff and flailing around to Morrissey, Joy Division and New Order then Confess is the arena rock tour spectacular with an all star cast.
By now you should have heard 5 Seconds, a single that aims for a spot on a ”Greatest Driving Anthems” cd and ends up deserving a compilation all of its own. Not entirely an accurate depiction of the album as a whole, 5 Seconds is more in line with the tracks found on Forget, a segue into the new album if you will. It’s the Twin Shadow equivelant of getting into a hot bath. No Confess finds itself more indebted to choppy, cut and paste samples and an 80’s sheen not heard since John Hughes typified teenage suburban life in film.
The album opens with Golden Light, a minimalist washy track, equal parts hip hop beats and calypso melodies. Imagine if Jamie XX had somehow predated his own birth and wrote Sweet Dreams instead of The Eurythmics and you’d be sort of almost close. This formula of mixing and matching older new wave legends well trodden sounds with newer production lends itself well to stitching the album together. For example, Run My Heart is so heavily influenced by the twangy guitar tones of The Police and Sting it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it soundtracking one of his ego fuelled tantric sex sessions. Beg For The Night similarly recalls the juddering stadium filling bombast of Simple Minds, weaving in both House instrumentation in quieter moments and post punk basslines in the breakdowns. And then there’s Patient which wouldn’t be out of place on both a Hercules and The Love Affair album and straddling the top 40 with its undoubtedly pop-tastic earworm of a chorus and swaggering Kanye synth trumpets.
Even though sound wise the tracks zig zag from Big Pink aping big beats, to swaying synth crooning the overarching theme is one that George knows all too well. Love, loss and heartbreak. Sure it’s an extremely well ravaged topic in music, grunted since Cavemen were hitting bones and rocks trying to pull Cavehotties. But that’s neither here nor there, pop music will ALWAYS go back to its roots.
Confess is the sound of GLJ leaving his ”credible” ”indie” roots behind and embracing the fully formed popstar he so clearly is. Whether the mainstream take notice (and it would be a travesty if it didn’t) is yet to be seen, but with releases from Kindness and Blood Orange showing us how Pop can both mean something and dodge the pitfalls of irony and inauthenticity its clear that we are due a revival where the music matters just as much as the image. I have to confess I’m looking forward to it.
STREAM: You can here the album here FOR FREE. Get on it you scamps.