Eugene Twist – The Stuntman Review

Ronnie McCluskey reviews the latest release from Glaswegian singer-songwriter Eugene Twist, ‘Stuntman’.

 

It’s been five years since Eugene Twist released his beguiling debut The Boy Who Had Everything. So where did the boychik with the world at his winklepickers go?

The Stuntman, his sophomore effort, partially explains the lengthy sabbatical; far from cooling his heels while waiting for afflatus to strike, the singer-songwriter has been obsessively titivating the record since its predecessor hit the airwaves – and it shows. The production is highly polished, the songs sound big and full and confident, and many of the qualities that made TBWHE so seductive remain: the poetic sensibility paired with arch delivery, the amalgam of musical influences, the unconventionally discursive lyricism that lurches from light-hearted to lugubrious like a faulty carriage on a wooden rollercoaster.

Twisted tales

Which is not to say The Stuntman is without its flaws. Twist has a way with words – many of the songs are almost epistolary, such is the strong storytelling emphasis – but once or twice the lyrics’ stravaiging trajectory threatens to overshadow the music itself. It’s as though the frontman’s train of thought is so wild, it runs off the tracks. This is most notable on album opener ‘Savile Row Gigolo’ – which in fairness is a funky and upbeat number – and on the title track, which features one of the record’s best lines: ‘Turn your dead lover’s ashes into diamonds, on a quest to vajazzle the mind…’

 

The unconventionally discursive lyricism that lurches from light-hearted to lugubrious like a faulty carriage on a wooden rollercoaster

Overall though, it’s another engaging and experimental effort. ‘Radar’ is a galactic fantasy about an interstellar alien playing cat and mouse with an elusive musician and features some beautiful melodies. ‘Jerusalem’ has been kicking about for a few years and is the most TBWHE song on this follow-up – a catchy, colourful track peppered with typically bewildering lyrics: ‘The Commonwealth was reptilian, the rescue mission so Chilean…’

The singer and the song

‘Halloween Drama Queen’ is another oldie but goodie – lavish and magical with a tear-jerking chorus (‘As the full moon guides you on your way, was I just too late for all the things we had to say?’) and lush guitar work. ‘The Twisting of the Blade’ is slow-paced and disarmingly dark, a fact accentuated by lyrics like ‘The ledge is crumbling, the black of the abyss is drawing me in’ – but there’s scope for glimmers of loveliness too.

The high point of TBWHE was the closer ‘Actress on a Mattress’, and the pattern continues here: ‘The Fish That Never Swam’ is very much the ace in the pack. An elegiac piano-led climax, it is a song about faded hopes in a disintegrating city: ‘Have you courage to try, old man by the Clyde, to delve down and rejuvenate or just look up and communicate?’

It’s been quite a wait, but The Stuntman more than lives up to expectations; this is a record to which one can return, uncovering new perspectives and making fresh interpretations as the trippy lyrics and majestic instruments deliquesce into the mind. The boychik is well and truly back.

 

 —★★★—

Words by Ronnie McCluskey