If it’s powerful 80s style synthpop you’re after, George Lewis Jr delivers
With two albums in the bag for 4AD Records, a few months back George Lewis Jr announced that he was putting the skids on his planned tour and the release of his next long player to “reconsider where Twin Shadow was headed”. That reconsideration resulted in him swapping 4AD for Warner Brothers and “hopefully a coffee with Prince”. Indeed, one might imagine that a hot beverage with Prince would be right up Lewis’ street, as the New Yorker’s new album is heavily inspired by everything 80s.
Lewis’ journey is hardly the typical rock star story of a lost childhood in a grimy inner city. Before hotfooting it to New York, he was brought up in sunny suburban Florida, where his dad worked as a hairdresser. Born in 1983, and therefore just about old enough to remember the big synthpop and soft rock tunes that defined an era, he admits to nomadic trips to Copenhagen and Berlin in search of the source of Bowie’s divine inspiration.
‘Eclipse’ roadmaps those allusions to the past, but while George Lewis Jr wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t hide his influences, he rarely resorts to pickpocketing ideas from the pin-ups of his youth. So although this album is nostalgic, it is unashamedly free of pretension, and that’s no more evident than on the opening ‘Flatliners’, its lonely piano and curling synth refrains drawing you in before Lewis’ rich, earthy vocal delivers a sucker punch power ballad. What follows is a record packed with expressive three-and-a-half-minute pop statements (almost any of which could be plucked out as a single), a record that harks back to a time when everything, especially music, seemed rather more simplistic.
This is pretty much the story of ‘Eclipse’ – bright, expansive keyboards and stomping drums united by stuttering guitar chords and meaningless lyrics, which matter little when the album’s melodies are so agreeably lavish. From start to finish, it rarely diverges from this template. The first bars of the closing ‘Locked And Loaded’ ooze with deep, breathy synths and passionate vocals, while tracks like ‘Back To The Top’ and ‘When The Lights Turn Down’ (the cheesy titles say it all) foam with balladic drama.
Ultimately, what’s most likeable about ‘Eclipse’ is that it is a real grower and the songwriting delivers potent, memorable powerpop. Of course, those attributes are still exhibited today in the designer huff of Lady GaGa or Katy Perry, but George Lewis Jr couldn’t be any less cool – and therein lays his authenticity and this album’s charm.