On his first two albums, Twin Shadow operated as a Frankenstein-like figure, an avatar for George Lewis Jr. to reenact certain celebrated notions of cool, drawing from an ’80s-inspired palette of counter-culture influences: a pained Morrissey-style croon, ethereal New Romantic eccentricity, new-wave artiness, Prince-lite sexuality, goth-inspired gloom. This multifaceted approach extended both to promotional material, with Lewis clad in leather and framed in gauzy soft pink and blue, and the songwriting itself, centered on big, hopeless heartbreak ballads fueled by more than their share of tempestuous bluster. All of these qualities effectively supernova on Eclipse, a major-label debut that does all the things such albums are imagined to do, inflating the familiar traits to cartoonish proportions, revealing both the inherent thinness of Lewis’s theatrically constructed sound and his insistent ability to imbue copycat pageantry with deeper sonic substance.
Befitting the improved production values and larger expected audience, the songs here are bigger and brasher than the ones on Twin Shadow’s previous albums, and while they’re just as intricately detailed, the subtle nature of such detail is too often washed out by so much oppressive showiness. Eclipse is at times a desperate album, frantic to show off the limits of emotional and musical turbulence it’s capable of reaching, and so the remaining glimmers of restrained cool lingering from Lewis’s dominant influences are further diminished; the ’80s-cribbing sounds closer to the decade’s frothy radio pap than its finer moments of inspired pop futurism. Opener “Flatliners” amply demonstrates the swollen tone, immediately setting to work on its first crescendo, pushing for ever-higher peaks as it ploddingly progresses. “To the Top” continues the theme of patchwork tawdriness, with its strained vocals, pounding drum buildups, handclap breakdown, and wanky guitar soloing, resulting in terminal cheese pitched directly to the rafters.
So while Twin Shadow’s first two efforts were defined by an uneasy balance between gaudy theatrics and finely detailed production, most of the songs here lack that innate tension, catchy but unsatisfyingly thin. Lewis’s lyrics have always been a weak point, yet while the words on Eclipse are especially trite, he remains a functionally sound writer of bombastic material, capable of instilling memorable moments even amid the clunkiest showstopper choruses. It’s not surprising, then, that the album’s best moments come amid its quieter back end, which is more relaxed, more nuanced, and consequently makes for a far more rewarding listen. Bright spots like the exuberant “Old Love/New Love” and the spooky, scintillating “Watch Me Go” are less focused on grandiloquence, and thus more successful at building up an uncanny, off-kilter momentum, getting closer to the sort of seedy, needy trash art Lewis has always excelled at creating.