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FFF Fest Nites review: Twin Shadow

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Ramon Ramirez

Editor’s note: This article was originally published November 10, 2013

Sporting a white snap-back, untucked white shirt, black blazer, skinny jeans and red boots, George Lewis Jr. and his Twin Shadow band brought soul and heart to their cold recordings Saturday night.

At maybe 75 percent capacity and skewing young, the show—closed by a DJ set from Simian Mobile Disco—played out like a hipster prom. Inebriated scenesters half-listened, texting out their locale to late friends. Dancing was relegated to isolated bursts despite Twin Shadow’s steady, bass-led grooves. No matter, Twin Shadow explored the studio space of the always gorgeous ACL Live stage during a 55-minute, free-to-wristbands Fun Fun Fun Fest Nites concert.

Chris Richards of the Washington Post called Lewis Jr.’s Twin Shadow sound “another dead-end expedition to the 1980s.” The larger point Richards made about Twin Shadow’s 2012 indie rock home run, “Success,” is that the album was championed by a sexist indie rock culture desperate for icons. Lana Del Rey’s raspy ballads were every bit as manufactured, and her fashion-conscious presentation was attacked by cultural thinkers. Lewis Jr. got ringing endorsements from king-making blogs, hailed as a “brutally honest Lothario.” Indeed, the lyricism displayed throughout Twin Shadow songs is vapid, ego-centric and frankly mean-spirited—masked under atmospheric romanticism. “I don’t believe in you,” Lewis Jr. sings on “Five Seconds.”

Why would you say that to somebody?

The band featured a female keyboard player outfitted in a fairy tale-inspired, hooded cloak. The idea was to juxtapose her wandering innocence alongside Lewis Jr.’s howling, wounded beast persona for dramatic effect; to symbolize lost faith. But sometimes a series of on-screen waves projected over flashing white squares are just—like much of Twin Shadow’s music—ornamental.

But the Dominican-born, Florida-made Lewis Jr. possesses an arresting, church-made voice that often gets buried in his trendy mixes. The guy can howl with purpose. For the debonair balladry of “The One,” Lewis Jr. went at it with just his soulful chops and a finely tuned guitar. The longing stopped the dance party in its tracks, recalling Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy singing the pleading parts of “Honesty Is No Excuse.”

Extra kudos to the stuntman drummer who kept quick, meticulous time and barely touched his beat pad. He turned the fast parts into a rock show, and during the honed in stylings of bowling shoes slick cuts like “When We’re Dancing,” kept the trains on time.

Twin Shadow wins because, despite lyrics like “this isn’t love, I’m just a boy,” the band buttoned up and blossomed on stage, validating the ACL Live billing in the process.