The long-awaited sequel to Irish poppers Two Door Cinema Club’s 2012 smashing album Beacon, releases this Friday (14/10/2016). With 2010’s Tourist History obliterating people’s expectations for indie pop, and its follow-up, the aforementioned Beacon, solidifying the band’s consistent reputation for obliterations of the mould and listener’s assumptions, ensured the band’s restricted and small discography would be remembered as a placeholder for modern indie-pop and indie-disco.
Alas, the 4 year wait for a follow-up to Beacon is finally here (and arrived in the post a day early, wa-hey!). Proceeded by catchy singles Are We Ready? (Wreck) and Bad Decisions, another evolution of sound seemed imminent for the Bangor boys. The nerdy boys that blushed ear to ear in interviews in their corduroy jackets and collared shirts in 2010, now slick their shoulder-length hair back with gel and wear leather jackets a la Arctic Monkeys, but this doesn’t necessarily reflect in their new music. When the Arctic Monkeys replaced their cutesy polo shirts for leather and gel, their music transitioned into a mature, not entirely original, but more grown-up sound. TDCC hand in their nerdy lyrics about people not getting off and undercover spies who hide from their social problems in for…well a bit more of the same.
Lyrically, the band have evolved from swimming in the ocean to limping onto the shore, with two songs, Lavender and Fever using the exact same rhyming scheme of “head” and “bed” when they are next to each other on the tracklisting. The album’s namesake Gameshow, is used in a metaphorical sentence that compares Trimble, the singer, to “a goat (?), a ghost, a gameshow”. A very confusing line that makes my head itchy. Are We Ready? delves into tabloid and journalistic excess, an idea they covered in detail on Tourist History’s You are Not Stubborn, 6 years earlier. TDCC weren’t and won’t be remembered for their lyrical acrobatics but I think the lyricism is near lazy on this time round, with no incredibly stand-out lines like on previous releases.
Musically, the band borrows ideas like a middle-aged mum in a supermarket, they just sort of pick iconic sounds off the shelf and throw it in for a quick sale or deal. A song comes dangerously close to resembling Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, you can try and guess which one that is. Alex Trimble puts his falsetto head voice and our ears to the test, sounding akin to a prepubescent boy attempting to sing along to the Beegee’s Stayin’ Alive. Even so, many great tracks like the oddly French titled Ja Viens De La (which translates to “I come from there”) and the second track Bad Decisions, would fit in on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, shocking alive an oddly catchy Frankstein’s monster of 70’s disco, modern indie-pop and electronica. The former song even has an unexpected EDM-like breakdown that is an interesting touch. Gameshow, the song, is TDCC’s attempt at being like their SoHo counterparts Bloc Party, which doesn’t entirely fail, but yet again, comes off as a nerdy guy doing a karaoke rendition of Reptilia by The Strokes. It just comes off as a bit embarrassing and he’d be much better doing some Weezer. Despite this, Trimble does have great control of his intense singing and it’s a step in the right direction for a guy who usually sings quite calmly.
Although my writing is practically oozing with vitriol, acidity and cynicism, this is not a bad album at all. It’s competent, and is produced fairly well. It suffers from a bit of 22, A Million syndrome with having some horridly bit-crushed production on songs like Lavender, which comes off as poorly done, instead of low-fi or charming. And that’s really the problem with Gameshow; its lack of charm. Songs like Are We Ready and Ordinary are jam-packed with cutesy and catchy, CHARMING, moments. If Tourist History was a person, it’d be a handsome, yet kind guy who invites you over for a movie and doesn’t really do that much and you just chat and hang out. Gameshow is the kind of guy who pulls all the stops to get you to come over, he juggles 6 things at once, does tricks, does backflips, and is head over heels to impress you, but doesn’t quite reach the charm and simplicity that made Tourist History so attractive and charming in the first place.
The songs on Gameshow is reflective of a band who started a musical revolution in 2010, left for a bit and came back to see the mess that they made and tried to match up with it again. With musical trends from The 1975’s most recent release clear in the album’s disco revival sound, the sound seems, already, hackneyed and overdone. But yet again, this is not a bad thing. Some of the sounds and beats that come off of this album are wonderfully danceable, catchy, and memorable. Ultimately the album is a great look into a kaleidoscope of sound, but there are bit too many mirrors in the kaleidoscope and it ends up looking a bit messy and confusing. Perhaps the album was even more outgoing, with moments on Gameshow and Ordinary being fleshed out more over the album, my opinion would be less antagonising of one of my favourite bands of all time.
The album, in my opinion is a 5/10, it’s competent and fun to listen to, but breaks no barriers and has a bit too many things going for it.
To hear more about Two Door Cinema Club make sure you tune in to From Start To Finish at 3pm on Friday the 14th of October where I will be reviewing Tourist History in detail on radiomonash.net