Album Review: Two Door Cinema Club – Gameshow

By on Wednesday, 26th October 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Two Door Cinema Club Gameshow album coverBeing childhood friends who share musical interests often provides a massive nudge towards the formation of a band. However, a longtime friendship may not necessarily be enough to hold a band together. Two years ago, Two Door Cinema Club cancelled their headline set at Latitude 2014. While the official reason for their pulling out of the festival in Suffolk was frontman Alex Trimble’s hospitalisation in Seattle, unbeknownst to us, discord had been ramping up within the band, reaching a breaking point.

According to this interview they did with DIY last month, the pursuit of the next big success in their career since leaving their small-town Northern Irish towns caused friction within. The former schoolfriends found themselves at odds with each other, unsure of whether they were going to continue as a unit. Having rediscovered themselves as individuals and after giving themselves time off from the band and from each other, they came out of their hiatus still wanting to make music as Two Door Cinema Club. Unfortunately, ‘Gameshow’ seems like a step back, as merely a peek back through the music that has made them who they are, rather than being an obvious, positive next step in their evolution.

In a chat with Steve Lamacq live on BBC 6 Music the week of the LP’s release, Alex Trimble explained their respect for Michael Jackson. The admiration for him comes through loud and clear on the vocal styling chosen by Trimble for most of this record. Not a friend of the falsetto? Step away from this review, turn around and run. If you’re okay with a man singing in a higher register than is natural, then keep reading. The apex of falsetto on this album, if you will, is ‘Je Viens De La’, “I wake gently with you” in French. With its wealth of synths and big beats, it’s an unabashed tribute to disco, another potential land mine in popular music. Another disco number, ‘Fever’, begins in a minimalist, promising way like Def Leppard’s ‘Love Bites’, except there’s that falsetto again. As a keen singer, it’s hard to listen to this album, wanting to throw some Halls Soothers in Trimble’s direction.

With the falsetto and the overt nods to disco, their new sound seems so far away from their debut ‘Tourist History’ that relied more heavily on guitars than beats and production. For long-time fans, it’s jarring and takes getting used to. There are, however, some moments of brilliance. ‘Lavender’, whose title I’m assuming is a nod to another high-pitched wonder, Prince, begins with a note progression reminiscent of ‘Walk This Way’. The song shows the trio embracing funk and r&b, with an arresting, foot-stomping rhythm to provide the track with much needed structure.

‘Invincible’ invokes the introspective, emotional guitar lines popularised in the ‘80s, with an appropriately cheesy, boyband-y vocal to match: “every day I see him beside you / is he treating you all right? / the things I would do if I were in his shoes / no more taking for granted / everything I get from you”. It’s weirdly engaging, but you have to take a step back for a moment and remind yourself that this is a Two Door Cinema Club album, not one of Justin Timberlake’s. Confusion is expected here.

I had real reservations the first time I gave this record a spin. It seems ironic how much they are embracing synths on this album (and arguably, overproduction thanks to working with Jacknife Lee in Los Angeles), considering the first time I saw Two Door perform was on their first tour of North America as support for Phoenix. The band have made it clear that this album finally gave them the opportunity to do what they wanted, without self-censoring themselves as they might have before. I initially seriously wondered who this album was for, but after the kind of global success they had before the age of 25, it’s about time they made an album they wanted to make, even if they risk alienating their most devoted fans.

6/10

‘Gameshow’, Two Door Cinema Club’s third studio album, is out now on Parlophone Records. You can have a listen to the title track below. They’re on tour in the UK in January and February next year; all the dates are listed back here. For more on Two Door on TGTF, including my review of this album’s first single taster ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’, follow this link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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