Album Review: Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon

By on Monday, 3rd September 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

After about 2 and half year since their debut album ‘Tourist History’ slowly but surely led Two Door Cinema Club on a slow burning rocket to super stardom in Britain and then around the world, they are back with album #2. Already, lots of reviewers are already sniffing their disapproval, saying that this album ‘Beacon’ dares not to deviate from the formula that made the likes of ‘I Can Talk’ and ‘What You Know’ bona fide megahits and the band is merely staying in one place musically. However, I beg to differ.

They’ve tried to mix things up a little bit, trying to do some ballads and even a song that’s bordering on the all too popular r&b genre, but mixing it up lead to mixed results as well. What becomes very clear, even when you’re examining the lyrics on their own, is a feeling of measured maturity, one that is borne from their rise to meteoric popularity, coupled with a back-breaking touring schedule and having to grow up musically in this dog-eat-dog business.

I had the good fortune of meeting Alex, Sam and Kevin socially after their first appearance in Washington DC, when they were supporting Phoenix on a sold-out tour. Stood there in the hallways of Constitution Hall, they seemed to be so very chuffed to have been invited out to tour in the great country of America with Phoenix. It was a baptism by fire, a mixture of anxiety and excitement every night, yet it was easy to see even in DC that they were already gaining new fans, with young girls queueing up to get autographs and their photographs taken with them. I’m sure none of their girls were even thinking ahead to what would happen next for Two Door. As a music editor, I don’t have any illusions of completely understanding of the insanity of being in a touring indie band, away from my own bed and my family for extended periods of time. The only hint I have is when I’m running around at a festival like SXSW, the Great Escape or Liverpool Sound City, trying to get as many things done in a day as possible, but even so, that’s only for a couple days. Imagine trying to do that for more than two-thirds of a year, and you might have an idea of what Two Door, or any other of your favourite bands for that matter, has had to give up to realise their dream.

‘Beacon’ begins with ‘Next Year’, a wistful number that nearly made me cry hearing it, because I remember that time I first met them and how different their lives are now. The song begins jauntily with the words, “I don’t know where I going to rest my head tonight, so I don’t won’t promise that I won’t speak to you today”; with the kind of harried lifestyle they lead these days, it’s no wonder they don’t have a clue where they will lay their weary heads that night after a gig, or why they have no chance at real relationships (“maybe someday you’ll be somewhere / talking to me, as if you knew me”), because the rest of the world has been living and passing them by. The song is a realisation – and a mature one at that – that things have changed for them forever.

An almost ballad, ‘Settle’, is rescued with its militant drunks similar to those in ‘Something Good Can Work’, also maintains a reflective quality about being disconnected with reality with their newfound celebrity (“when I get home, when I get home / I want to feel less alone / I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t feel / anybody”). Title track ‘Beacon’ reinforces the motif of home, and it’s with this trifecta that I think they’ve succeeded in writing songs around this theme. If only they’d written the whole album this way. While it was recorded in Los Angeles with producer Jacknife Lee, it’s with some considerable relief that after listening to ‘Beacon’, you know the boys have not changed up their sound or style for the sake of being ‘California hip’.

‘Sleep Alone’, the lead single, sounds very ‘Tourist History’ in its up tempo rhythm and fun melodic vocal, but the words are much less filler and more food for thought than anything off their debut. I’ll admit I’ve thought about the words than probably anyone should, but I’ve wondered if the song is tackling mental illness, suicide, mortality, the horrors of war or a combination of them. Hardly lightweight subjects for a ‘mere pop band’. (I dunno, I don’t believe for a minute that it’s just about run of the mill nightmares, as the video would like you to think.) In ‘Handshake’, a hypnotic synth line buzzes along with a disco-ey bass from Kev Baird goes with the words of the chorus “she says ‘the devil will want you back’ / and you’ll never find love in an open hand / shut your eyes so you’ll see I’m there / and know you’ll have this if you see this man”, kind of sounding as nonsensical as the words in ‘I Can Talk’. What’s more important is that it’s completely danceable, as are bouncy ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Someday’, with great squealing guitars. ‘Sun’ is at close to r&b as Two Door ever gets on ‘Beacon’, with a sexy bass line and a horn section, but it doesn’t work too well with Trimble’s vocal: it’s just too clear and innocent to be believable. This isn’t a dig on Alex’s voice, I think it’s great. It’s the kind of voice you want the boy next door to have, the one you’re crushing over, to have. It’s just not appropriate for soul.

And then comes the sleepier second half of the album. Compared to the rest of the album, neither ‘The World is Watching’, with the backing vocals of Valentina, nor ‘Spring’ go down completely well either. I give them much credit for trying to write ballads, but it just doesn’t sit right with me for some reason. Wait, I got it: they’re trying too hard to be Bombay Bicycle Club, and it’s not a metamorphosis I’m happy with. What is ‘Pyramid’? An existentialist history lesson, exploring “what lies beneath the earth / everything that has ever been and will become”. Zzz. So the final verdict? The album is about two-thirds fun and one-third snooze. Will their fans buy it in droves? Of course. But will others? I’m less sure about that. One thing that I do know though, ‘Next Year’ and ‘Sleep Alone’ will go down as Two Door classics, beloved by all because of all 11 tracks, these are the best examples of something the mainstream media don’t want to say: they might be awfully young, but those chaps in Two Door Cinema Club are pretty good songwriters.

7/10

‘Beacon’, the new album from Two Door Cinema Club, is out today on Kitsune. The cover of the album is a mystery to me and if I see the boys on this tour, I’m going to go up to them and say, “the cover, guys? LADS!” The album trailer is below.

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3 Responses

[…] their global legions of fans? But the timing of new material, their first since sophomore album ‘Beacon’ was released in September 2012, couldn’t be better: the band will be headlining their biggest […]

[…] Door Cinema Club – ‘Beacon’ (Kitsune/review here) – You all know that I am a massive Two Door fan, so it pains me to say that while it has its […]

[…] first time I heard this song, when I was reviewing ‘Beacon’ for TGTF, I thought it was about leaving behind a girlfriend for the road to live the life of a rock star. […]

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