A few days before Twin Shadow’s show at Village Underground, he announced the postponement of a whole raft of upcoming autumn dates. The reason? “There are really great things going on behind the scenes… but we need to take some time to make sure everything settles perfectly.”
My first reaction is relief that the London gig’s not cancelled. Then comes the unease. “As our ambitions with the live show and the music grow,” the statement went on, “we want to make sure we get it right.”
So what kind of half-baked experiment are we going to be subjected to tonight? Maybe everyone else is thinking the same thing, as there’s a strange atmosphere in the tunnel-like venue. The show was upgraded from XOYO to Village Underground due to ticket demand, and the hip, trendy young things surrounding me give me the tremblings of The Fear as I recall a rave here a couple of years ago. Turns out Twin Shadow are really cool. Naively, I never expected this.
I fell in love with Twin Shadow because of 2010’s debut LP, ‘Forget’ (review), which endures to these ears as a very tender, personal affair between George Lewis Jr. and me. Full of eerily regretful, cathartic numbers sung late at night, the record is a time capsule of ’80s love songs that never were. Follow-up set ‘Confess’ (review) has a lot of the same tropes but is grander and more aspiring – and not nearly as lovable.
When the lights turn out after a bit of a wait, Lewis Jr. appears alone with an acoustic guitar, and bashes through a slightly shambolic version of ‘The One’. He seems pretty smashed, but it’s okay – it’s a charming version of the song. As the final chords ring out, the rest of the band appears.
We’re granted a few songs from the first two albums, including ‘Five Seconds’, ‘Golden Light’ and a spectacularly theatrical version of ‘Castles In The Snow’ that’s swamped by titan synths. They’re pretty loose renditions, sounding a little like the band aren’t that keen on playing them, but pleasing nonetheless.
After a couple of these, Lewis Jr. asks if we mind them playing a few new ones. The crowd yells back its approval. I know they’re lying, but he was only asking out of politeness anyway. Feeling like one of many guinea pigs, I sit in judgment on the poptastic, big and brash – occasionally cheesy – tunes delivered unto us. They’re heavy on the synths, with lots of catchy chart-baiting vocal riffs. Recent single ‘To The Top’ is a stadium-ready, ’80s rock ballad that could almost be Bryan Adams – no kidding. All tinkling pianos jostling with dub-bass and cut-and-paste vocals, ‘Old Love / New Love’ is good fun, and wouldn’t have been out of place in that dodgy rave I was last here for.
The new songs signal a promising future for Twin Shadow that could see him capture a larger mainstream audience. But does “getting them right” justify cancelling the tour? I mean, they’re quite exciting, but I think the world is just about ready. But whatever happens next, I think I’ve lost the illusion of a personal relationship with Twin Shadow for good. It’s out of my hands now.
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Words: Darren Loucaides