The Irish indie rock band were formed in County Down in 2007 and, have since, been making their names as one of the most interesting and reputable bands in music. Alex Trimble (vocals, rhythm guitars; beats and synths.), Sam Halliday (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Kevin Baid (bass , synths and backing vocals) burst onto the scene with their debut album Tourist History. Despite not accruing too many critical reviews: the record was selected for the Choice Music Prize for Irish Album of the Year in (2010) the following year. Sophomore album Beacon arrived in 2012 and went straight to the top of the Irish Album Chart – hitting the number two spot in the U.K. Beacon didn’t so much add anything new to Tourist History – it was more a companion piece and accompaniment. Whilst that may alarm some listeners/critics: the band managed to amass some fond reviews.
Compared to a less bombastic version of The Killers; tunes that can play in the background and seep into the consciousness – not so much straying from their trademark choruses and glitz; instead, adding little new elements here and there. Perhaps not as instant and affecting as Tourist History – taking more time to resonate and revealing – the deeper songwritng (on Beacon) was praised by many. One of the negatives of Beacon was the finely-executed and polished sound: the fact the album was very shiny and clean; taking some of the emotion from the music. The songs themselves did not reach the heights of the debut album – satisfying the dedicated fans but not bringing in too many new faces. How you view Two Door Cinema Club will depend upon your views of radio-friendly songs and inoffensive choruses. Perhaps a little saccharine and not distinguishing itself from the sea of like-minded bands out there – the group are always likely to divide opinion.
Gameshow was released on Friday and singles Are We Ready? (Wreck) showed the band in hungry form and definitely willing to throw everything into the mix. Two more singles – Bad Decisions and the title track – followed and, whilst sticking close to their tried-and-tested template, engaged radio taste-makers and impressed critics. Gameshow came about following the band’s extensive touring schedule – promoting the E.P. Changing of the Seasons. Trimble stated, in the run-up to the release, that Gameshow would not embrace modern pop sounds: instead, Prince and David Bowie would show their influence in the out-there pop and Avant Garde craziness (of the record). Recorded in Los Angles and produces with Beacon collaborator Jacknife Lee – who has also produced for U2 – there has been a lot of excitement and speculation.
Are We Ready? (Wreck) is almost a carbon-copy of M83’s Go! in many ways. It has that same sassiness and swing out of the gate: the infectious backing vocals and a definite insistence on losing your senses and surrendering oneself. “She’s no lady” and “We’ve made a mistake” gets the imagination working; wondering what the song is attesting. In the run-up to Gameshow’s release, the band has been talking down Beacon as being a little safe and secure. If Gameshow is a rebellious kick against conformity than Are We Ready? (Wreck) is not the most obvious example of that. It is a glossy and vivacious number but one that has its purpose – pleasing dance-floor revelers and pop fans – but forgettable a few weeks down the line. Bad Decisions is more languorous and crawling: sensually oozing from the stereo and the first real taste of Prince – perhaps a little bit of Justice in there for good measure.
Assessing the dangers of T.V., social media and selling one’s soul (cheaply at least): the slinky vocals and disco/funk-laden guitar licks have a certain charm and breeziness. Whilst a stronger and more compelling track than Are We Ready? (Wreck) – it is another track that appeals at once but loses glimmer and gloss across repeated spins. The title track, at least, offers some bite and rock edges. Balancing David Bowie-esque eccentricity with Duran Duran-esque power-pop; there is a reliance on big dance numbers and vibrant sounds throughout Gameshow. The band runs through a riot of ideas and sounds – the high falsetto of Invincible and the groovy Fever – without replicating others too much. Gameshow is not a leap or huge progression from their previous two albums but does add conviction, improved songwriting and more depth.
One of the biggest pluses of Gameshow is its variety and influences. Taking in elements of David Bowie and Prince moves the band away from pop contemporaries The 1975 and Bastille and towards something more vintage and heavyweight. The band represents these idols in their own way and funnel their vibes into some strong and impressive songs. There is still a problem with filler and repetition which means Gameshow never truly hits the mark. Two Door Cinema Club are eager and inventive throughout but are too beholden to energy-infused, huge retro. numbers – it can sap the energy somewhat. Whilst many will applaud the band for making changes and throwing more into their locker; others will find little to distinguish them from the likes of M83 and their ilk. An album impressive in some spots and lacking in others: Gameshow can be a frustrating listen at times. If you give it enough time, you’ll bond with tracks like Fever and Surgery whilst Are We Ready? (Wreck) and others – the title track and Ordinary – will slip out of the mind.
Gameshow is available now through Parlophone.