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2016 – Where Are We Now? And Where Are We Going?

 
By on Friday, 23rd December 2016 at 11:00 am
 

I saw an ‘interesting’ Christmas card on a friend’s office door earlier this week. The sentiment inside the card referred to the “tumultuous” year we’ve had, with an additional note about looking forward to better things in 2017. To be honest, given the sheer volume of craziness in the last 12 months, it seemed an irresponsible act of a music editor to post her top albums and shows of the year, as if 2016 was like any other year in the past. This article to close out the year is not meant to be a scathing assessment of what has happened. Instead, the words below are meant to encourage reflection during this holiday season, during that usually otherwise ‘sweet spot’ of festive days before we say goodbye to the current year and usher in a new one.

The passing of David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen and countless other luminaries in the music world
A mathematician would argue that given the law of averages and the passage of time, for every year that passes, we’re going to lose more of our favourite artists. That makes sense, right? But 2016 saw the passing of what seemed to be the most ridiculous number of singers and musicians in popular music ever. Just ask @PigeonJon.

Votes for Brexit (warning, about to get partisan)
Politically, 2016 delivered a one-two punch to the idealistic types in Britain and America. The majority of blighty voted to leave the EU, opening the door to Brexit becoming a reality sooner than later. As most/all of you know, I don’t live in and never have lived in Britain, so it might sound strange for an American to come out so negatively against a political decision made on British shores. If you were like me and studied any sort of isolationism policy in history class in school, you know what happens when a single major country in the world tries to cut itself out of the business matters of the rest of the world.

To paraphrase the many thoughts in my head, just consider this one point with respect to the British music industry: if bands cannot afford the travel and visa costs to leave Britain and enter another European country (seriously, just forget America for the sake of this argument), they’ve lost out on a major revenue stream, not to mention the priceless exposure they would get from the touring opportunity. I’ve considered the fact that for us Americans, it may well become de rigueur to travel to the UK to see our favourite British bands or else never see them live ever again.

That’s the most fatalistic vision of the future, but it could become very real. As we all know, for most bands, touring is their bread and butter and let’s face it, the future looks bleak. As for our president elect (I can’t even bring myself to type out his name), I have contemplated too many times what havoc he could wreak on the entire world, so I’m just going to leave that there.

Skepta winning the 2016 Mercury Prize (finally, some positivity!)
I won’t repeat what I wrote in September following grime’s huge victory at the annual awarding of the Mercury Prize, you can read that here. What I will say is, it feels like we’re all stood on top of a massive tectonic plate and have been doing so all year, and the earth is shifting beneath us. Change has come and will continue coming. There will be major losses, but there will also be major gains. We needed a win for humanity this year, and Skepta’s win – and one of his sources of inspiration, his very excited mum! – was a bright spot amid the repeated, seemingly unrelenting sorrows we were faced with this year.

Things aren’t ever going to be the same, and we can’t expect them to be so. But we won’t be downtrodden forever. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but Thebes wasn’t destroyed in a day either. We can use this time during the holidays for quiet reflection and remind ourselves that even in darkness, we can think, plan and act. Please, please remember that.

I will leave you with some lyrics from the ‘on hiatus’ Keane that I’ve turned to many times this year. I needed them to keep me going, to remind myself that not all hope was lost. Hope is always there. Just sometimes you need to dig deeper in yourself to find it.

“I’ve been knocked down but I won’t be broken, I won’t be broken
My spirit’s reeling, but my arms are open, I won’t be broken”

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Hard Working Class Heroes 2016: an introduction to editor Mary‘s coverage

 
By on Thursday, 13th October 2016 at 1:00 pm
 

For the first part of this month, I spent 8 glorious days on the Emerald Isle, first familiarising myself with some of the prettiest parts of the west side of this country. But as this is a music Web site, of course the remainder of my time was spent at my first Hard Working Class Heroes, held over the course of 3 days and six venues across the city centre of Dublin. You might not think the first half of my trip would have had as big of an effect on my time at the festival, but it did. I enjoyed “small-town” Irish people and their ‘craic’: as soon as I explained that I was attending a music festival in Dublin, they were quick to tell them which of their family members made music themselves and which bands they could personally recommend for me to catch at Hard Working Class Heroes…

…because, as you see, more so than people from any other country, music runs in the Irish blood. Everyone’s got a granny, granddad, mum or dad who played fiddle or guitar or some other instrument and would lead family singalongs after dinner. Just like camping festivals like Glastonbury are a rite of passage to the English, this is an idea as alien and foreign to most Americans. So it is no wonder that such a small country and one that was for so many years oppressed by outside forces were driven to make music. They are a people who hold what music means to them close to their hearts. We here at TGTF already knew this from the Irish and Northern Irish showcases put on at SXSW every year, but Hard Working Class Heroes is an Irish artist-specific event to show off the musical bounty from their proud little island.

Achill Island sheep
insert bad Irish sheep joke here

Following the conclusion of the event, feted Irish music journalist and Irish Times writer Jim Carroll wrote this piece Tuesday entitled “Keeping the home fires burning” as an overview of his impressions of this year’s event. Emceeing the various industry panels during the 3 days of Hard Working Class Heroes, he noted that “most of the seats were occupied by musicians rather than the people who seek to represent them.” This is important to point out for two reasons. One, musicians in Ireland are proactively trying to advance their careers and this ever vital, in as Carroll points out in his article that as although Ireland is a small country, it has one of the biggest music economies in the world. Two, there are less discovery-minded people – management willing to sign new acts, music journalists, music bloggers, etc. – attending this event, which means less acts are going to get their chance in the sun. I wonder if the same can be said about the convention portion of HWCH’s English counterpart, The Great Escape. This phenomenon worries me, and I agree with what Carroll says himself in the piece, “the acts who don’t have that [industry and management interest in them] in are effectively shut out of the process. This is something which needs to be changed, but it’s hard to see if the will or means to do so can actually be produced.”

I’m not talking about ensuring everyone gets one of those mega million label contracts of yore, all of which have pretty much disappeared from the industry landscape. I’m talking about even something as small as a mention in a newspaper, magazine or blog in another country that might open the door to further opportunities. During a panel at Hard Working Class Heroes Friday on breaking Irish bands into American media, three American journalists (curiously all women and from New York City: they couldn’t get one man or one person from outside New York?) said that it was virtually impossible for them to pitch a feature to their editor on an emerging band unless there was hype already behind them, because emerging band features don’t do well with Web site hits. As the owner of a music Web site, I understand too well that analytics are king. But what are newer, up-and-coming bands to do if the media leave them behind and are unwilling to feature them?

In America, you haven’t got a chance in hell of getting your band played on mainstream radio unless you have a major label contract or there have already been industry rumblings of your future potential. It has been a difficult, delicate balance for me as editor of TGTF to figure out how best to focus our attention on established artists versus up-and-comers and hyped bands. Hearing what I did and feeling that disappointment, there is no question in my mind that us covering bands as they come up, as they tickle our ears and pique our interest regardless of how big a team they have backing them (if at all), covering the less pedigreed and less hyped ones is a big part of what we’re meant to do and what we’ll keep doing.

Why is this important and especially in the context of Hard Working Class Heroes? This is clearly not a music festival like SXSW where it’s solely about the big acts, about chasing Kendrick Lamar’s secret show or pencilling in a SPIN party starring Santigold and Bloc Party. And that’s a very good thing! This is the kind of event where Irish musicians and bands who haven’t broken yet get their first shot (or at least one of the earliest opportunities) in the limelight, the hyperbole of hype is kept to a minimum and true music discovery is the key phrase here. For most of these acts, you won’t know a lot about them, so any bias you would have had at another festival isn’t at play. There is, pretty much, an even level playing field for all too, so things are optimistic for each and every artist. We all know what happens at Glasto and Reading/Leeds when the Main Stage gets the lion’s share of punters’ attention, don’t we? This is a unique event to showcase the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears, the sacrifices that musicians in Ireland make and give them the platform to show us why they think they should make it.

River Liffey Friday HWCH
Surprisingly, during the entirety of this year’s HWCH, it never rained. Is that some kind of record?

Having been instrumental in their early support of Hozier, it’s not too hard to believe Hard Working Class Heroes will break other Irish bands before anyone else. I have my own list of acts that I think have much promise beyond Ireland, and you’ll read more about them in the coming days. Some of you may remember that the first Irish band I put my money on and tipped was Two Door Cinema Club back in 2009, and you all know what happened to them, so it’ll be interesting in the next 6 to 12 months to see how good my predictions are.

 

Bowie vs. Grime: The 2016 Mercury Prize Story

 
By on Friday, 16th September 2016 at 11:00 am
 

People. I think we need to have a serious conversation about the Mercury Prize. Last year, our Steven wrote this thought piece about how he felt tastemakers weren’t doing the general public any favours by choosing underdogs and acts we’d never heard of instead of popular favourites. Where was the public’s say in all of this? Well, for 2016, it definitely sounded they’d taken what Steven had said to heart. In an unprecedented move in its silver anniversary year, 11 of the 12 nominated artists this year were either household names and major label signings, or at least a major festival draw in the case of Savages, who are signed to Beggar imprint Matador.

2016 has not been kind to us. In addition to losing Prince in April, we also lost David Bowie, the most beloved weirdo alien in Ziggy Stardust. One needs only to look at how Bowie decided to hide his cancer from the world, only his closest family and himself holding on to that kernel of knowledge until the very end. He must have done this on purpose, so the anticipation towards ‘★’ would not be unfairly tainted by any questions on what influence his impending death might have had on the final product.

When the shortlist of 12 nominated albums was unveiled last month, I was honestly initially struck with surprise that ‘★’ had been nominated. Or maybe I shouldn’t have been? Maybe I should have assumed that Bowie, having such a far-reaching impact from his many decades and albums of influence over countless fans and musicians, would automatically be nominated? What I found even weirder were the countless Tweets and messages I saw following the nominations announcement saying Bowie deserved to win.

Um, sorry, David. I was more interested in the acts still alive that I might be able to see perform one day. However, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura Mvula and Radiohead seemed way too safe bets. Not just one but two grime acts, Kano and Skepta, were recognised for their contribution to a genre that had begun in East London a decade ago. Add in the astonishing inclusion of the 1975, the Manchester band much derided for their foaming at the mouth fans and suddenly, taken together, this all suggested to me that this was going to be one interesting match.

Skepta 400x400 Konnichiwa album cover

After all that was said and done, it was Skepta and his fourth album ‘Konnichiwa’ who proved victorious. Indeed, judging from the post-ceremony reactions last night, it was quite an arresting ‘hello!’ from the Tottenham artist to those unfamiliar with not just him but with the entire genre. As I predicted, there were many public calls that Bowie had somehow been robbed of what had been rightfully his, and by some guy they’d never heard of, of a genre that they’d heard of either and therefore meant nothing. However, there is no escaping the argument that had ‘★’ indeed been chosen as the winner of the 2016 Mercury Prize, there would have been enough detractors accusing the tastemaker panel of the sympathy vote. Frankly, it would have been lazy on the panel’s part, had they given the Mercury to Bowie. Full stop.

Skepta could have very easily gone the route of Young Fathers 2 years ago, choosing to say very little, such that there would be so little room for him to be criticised. However, despite being in shock upon the announcement he’d won, he took to the microphone with relative aplomb. He used the opportunity of all eyes of the music world on him to say “Thank you to everybody who was there for me when I was going through depressed times. I don’t know man, I’m so thankful…” And in a moment of poetic beauty, he concluded his acceptance speech by honouring both Bowie and the late Amy Winehouse.

In a conversation with NME after winning the award, Skepta was very clear that his award after coming from such humble beginnings should be a call to action for young people: “I want them to be themselves…When old people are telling them to be quiet, and old people are telling them they’re not right, and people who just don’t understand kids are just saying stuff to them [to suit] their own boxed-in lives, I want the kids to be like, ‘No. Do you know what, Skepta showed me that I just need to do and say how I feel. Because you only get one chance to say how you feel, you know.” Now, who do we know (or rather, who have we followed) that might have said something like that?

I refuse to repeat some of the worst comments I’ve seen in reply to the BBC video Tweet of the moment when Cocker announced the winner. You can read them here if you’re truly interested. We know from hearing it from the words coming out of Jarvis Cocker’s mouth that he and the rest of the tastemaker panel were aware of the potential public backlash of their selection and felt they had to be prepared to defend their choice. This decision can be interpreted in many ways. But one most obvious interpretation to me, in these times we live in where divides by class, race and even just plain experience are proving so prominent, feels particularly awful and terrible. In case you missed it, Bowie’s own Facebook page have provided a transcript of Cocker’s words:

“OK, I have the result here. But, I’ve got to tell you a little bit of a story before I let you know whose name is inside here. OK? Now, myself and my fellow jurors, about 4 months ago we started off with 223 albums. We had to listen to those and that was whittled down to the twelve that you’ve seen performances from tonight. But in the end, the winner came down to a contest between two black stars.

“And we as a jury decided, that if David Bowie was looking down on the Hammersmith Apollo tonight…and let’s face it maybe he is, we’ve seen traces of his influence in many of the bands you’ve seen perform here tonight…if he was looking down at the Hammersmith Apollo tonight, he would want the 2016 Hyundai Mercury Prize to go to…Skepta.”

At the end of the day, the Mercury Prize is a piece of metal on a shelf, another subjective award given to a musical act. For those who really wanted – and expected – Bowie to win this year, I have to ask, what exactly did you hope would be achieved from ‘★’ winning the gong? By awarding it to someone else, someone like Skepta who can and will undoubtedly inspire future generations to be inventive, to be outspoken leaders, to be trailblazers, to be someone who will make a difference to others? That, my friends, is the real prize.

 

In the Post #155 / Essay: Tom Chaplin previews his debut solo album with ‘Hardened Heart’

 
By on Thursday, 25th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Following the announcement in autumn 2013 that Keane were splitting up, fans had a bit of a reprieve. Frontman Tom Chaplin, known for his singing and charismatic presence onstage and not for his own songwriting, revealed his desire to release his own solo album. After the release of ‘The Best of Keane’ in November of that year, the months and years passed. Except for a one-off cover of Stornoway’s ‘Fuel Up’ with Chaplin on vocals and bandmate and primary Keane songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley on piano in April 2015, we heard nothing. I had begun to think that this Tom Chaplin solo album was nothing but a faraway dream that would never be realised. Then in the middle of July, Tom Chaplin registered an Instagram account and started posting photos. A lot of them. As Chaplin had always been someone relatively reticent on social media, this new development meant something big was obviously afoot.

One of the first true tastes of his forthcoming debut solo album ‘The Wave’ due out mid-October is a clear indicator of the pain Chaplin suffered during the years of superstardom with Keane and after. Read this feature by Neil McCormick from the Telegraph this month, and you will be astonished by Chaplin’s honesty with his recent battles with drug use and anxiety, which he – and all of us fans for that matter – thought he’d kicked a decade ago, following treatment at The Priory in London. As a longtime appreciator of Keane, it hurts me deeply that someone I’ve looked up to, with the most precious of musical gifts – his amazing voice and his showmanship – has lived such a hidden, troubled existence. Chaplin admits that in recent years, his family had all but given up on him, his wife saying at one point, “I want to tell you that I love you because I don’t know whether I will get a chance to again.”

A quick examination of the lyrics of ‘Hardened Heart’ reveals Chaplin’s tortured soul, one grappling with depression, part and parcel of the fallout of a life ravaged by addiction. This song is written from the inside of depression looking out. When you’re depressed, the outside world seems like a strange, almost cartoony place. Everyone around is getting on with their lives, but you can’t. You’re stuck in one place. “It’s such a beautiful world”, yet you don’t see it. All that’s in front of you is filtered through grey shaded glasses, darkness. It’s a tough place and even as concerned as they are, it’s hard to explain to those on the outside.

His pronouncement that “all the people that love me / they never know if I’m up, down or round”, mirroring the Jekyll and Hyde characters described in Barry Hyde’s ‘Monster Again’ on his own debut solo album ‘Malody’ (“Who am I tonight? What am I tomorrow?”). But arguably the worst part of this form of mental illness is realising you could be close to losing everything, but feeling helpless, unable to do anything to lift yourself out of the mire. As noted in the start of the chorus, it’s part of a vicious cycle: “hurting everyone I know / bringing everybody down so low / stuck along a road of sadness with nowhere to go”. Another sinister slice of depression is apathy, coupled with the overwhelming desire to reach a place of emotional normalcy. “Oh, I know that my hardened heart is beating still / I drove it to the point of madness just to feel”, sings Chaplin expansively. Though it sounds counterintuitive, finally going from numb to feeling is important towards the transformation, on the road to recovery.

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The promo video for ‘Hardened Heart’ was filmed in the Peak District, starting with Tom Chaplin’s silhouette framed by the first few snatches of daylight at dawn. The visuals effectively parallel the shifting moods contained in the track, as the misty clouds lift over the water and rolling hills. Even with the sunshine, the landscape is rough with brush and bracken. Yet Chaplin finds a dirt path, walking down it with not just a renewed faith, but with gusto as the chorus turns to uplifting, with expressive strings and driving drumbeats: “here’s hoping that the signs are real / and tomorrow with a spring in my heel / somewhere on the road of sadness lies a better deal”. After years of leaning on the artistry of bandmate Rice-Oxley, media pundits have understandably wondered if Chaplin had the talent of penning a pop hit of his own. The answer is a resounding yes. And that voice? It’s never been better.

It takes strength to return from the brink, to come back better than ever, to fight for another day. Tom Chaplin is living proof of this. This song is his way to remind others who feel lower than low that even if you don’t feel it yourself, you matter. You matter to the people who love you. Above all, you are worthy of this life. The title ‘Hardened Heart’ speaks of not only of what depression does to our most important emotional organ, but also how the heart can survive and rise above after battling mental illness.

9.5/10

Tom Chaplin’s debut solo album ‘The Wave’ will be released on the 14th of October on Island Records. To read TGTF’s back catalogue of posts on his old band Keane, follow this link. To read about depression and addiction from a doctor’s perspective of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, go here. The Priory have also gotten in touch with us about their mental health services. They encourage anyone reading this article to learn more about addiction and anxiety disorders on their official Web site.

 

Fan Photography at Live Shows: A Right or a Privilege?

 
By on Monday, 4th July 2016 at 11:00 am
 

Header photo: Fans capture live photos of Sylvan Esso’s surprise show at SXSW 2016

You’ve queued for over an hour to get into a gig. You rush into the venue to claim a coveted spot at the barrier. When your favourite band finally takes the stage, you whip out your smartphone to capture a video of them playing their most popular hit tune. You touch the Record button, and—you get an error message. “Recording disabled”, your phone screen reads.

Wait, what?

According to a recent article at NME.com, tech giant Apple has recently been awarded a patent to develop an infrared data transmission system which, among other potential functions, could prevent fans from filming or taking photos at concerts using their iPhones. The new system would use beams of infrared light to transmit data to phones or cameras as described in this excerpt from the patent:

For example, an infrared emitter can be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices. An electronic device can then receive the infrared signals, decode the data and temporarily disable the device’s recording function based on the command.

While this system is currently limited to Apple devices and software, it seems reasonable to assume that similar systems will soon be devised for non-Apple smartphones and even stand-alone digital cameras. Whether or not you’re an iPhone user, you might be asking yourself at this point, “What does this mean for me, as a live music fan?” Essentially, it means that artists and venues could use the new infrared system to prevent concertgoers from taking photos or shooting video at gigs, either by disabling the photo and video functions altogether, or by applying a photo-editing effect such as a watermark to prevent sharing of the photos or videos.

As a music blogger, I’m of two minds on the subject of restricting photography at gigs. On one hand, it can be distracting when half the audience is watching the show through their camera screens rather than focusing their attention on the stage. This is especially problematic when punters hold their cameras (or worse, something larger like a tablet) over their heads to get a better vantage point, effectively blocking the view of anyone standing behind them.

Artists themselves have begun to express their frustration with the growing trend of obsessive live gig photo and video sharing, with Ryan Adams and Foy Vance being two examples in my own concert-going experience. Pop songstress Adele recently voiced her opinion on the subject at a show in Italy. The irony of that moment being captured and shared on a fan’s Twitter feed wasn’t lost on us here at TGTF.

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On the other hand, I have to admit to being guilty of this offense myself when I review live shows, though perhaps in a more official context. As an established music Web site, TGTF can usually secure a photo pass ahead of a gig, or at least general permission to take photos. Photo passes currently take the form of a special wristband or sticker for the photographer to make it easy for security to identify credentialed photographers. However, our editor Mary points out that the new infrared system, or any similar restriction put into action at the behest of either the artists themselves or the venue, would require electronic credentials for each individual camera or video device. Given that many smaller venues haven’t even switched over to electronic tickets and scanners, it’s hard to imagine that electronic press credentialing will happen at those places in the near future, even if the new technology to block digital photography and video recording is implemented.

So where would this leave music bloggers who review shows with the good faith intent of publicising and promoting the music and bands we love? Certainly, we could attend shows and post live reviews without photos. But as anyone who’s ever attended a live gig knows, concerts aren’t only about the aural experience of the music. Pictures and live video hold extra appeal for readers who weren’t in attendance at a gig. More importantly, they can pique the interest of readers who might be considering buying tickets to a future show. Our main goal at TGTF is to spread the word about music that inspires us, and we feel we can do that more effectively if we include visual content in our reviews.

"iPhone

As one example, a large part of our live reporting here at TGTF includes annual coverage of the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas. SXSW is our chance to see many of our favourite artists from around the world here on American soil, and to promote their music to American audiences. If our live reporting is restricted at events like SXSW, our content would be less dynamic and our readers’ interest in an event as it was just unfolding would certainly decline. The musicians themselves would likely also feel this lack of publicity and decline in interest, perhaps deciding that international festival participation and touring were no longer worth their time or the very considerable expense.

There are also safety and human rights issues at play with such restrictions inside music venues, both at festivals and at individual shows. Consider, for example, how outcomes might have been different at the Bataclan in Paris or the Pulse in Orlando if patrons inside those clubs hadn’t been able to use social media to communicate with first responders and their own friends and family. From a broader perspective, the possibility of these new restrictions could have a much greater impact outside the realm of music journalism. TGTF reader and avid concertgoer Peter Dysart Erickson writes, “Think media blackouts; think local police forces flipping the switch to prevent the filming of police brutality and rights violations; imagine governments outside the U.S. shutting off cameras to prevent news from escaping. The implications of this technology are far ranging and ultimately against basic human rights.”

We at TGTF believe that the final decision on gig photography is best left in the hands of the musicians themselves. We’re willing to respect the wishes of artists who prefer not to be faced with a sea of smartphone cameras every time they go onstage. We’re sympathetic to artists who want to be able to perform new songs in live context, without the fear of amateur video footage showing up on YouTube before the songs are officially released. Above all, we’re eager to allow our favourite artists to fully engage with their audiences and, as audience members, to fully engage with them in return. Even if it means keeping our smartphones in our pockets. However, artists must make this decision with the understanding that if such restrictions on photography and videography are put into place, our ability as music journalists to provide full and complete reporting on live shows will be greatly compromised.

Editor of TGTF Mary Chang contributed to this report.

 

Single Review / Essay: Two Door Cinema Club – Are We Ready? (Wreck)

 
By on Friday, 24th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

In just a few hours, Two Door Cinema Club will be returning to Glastonbury – to play on the Pyramid Stage, no less – after a 3-year absence from Worthy Farm. They’ve also had a 3-year absence from the record shops, following 2013’s oddball ‘Changing of the Seasons’ EP. In the world we live in, where mass consumerism is king and instant gratification is a key driver in buying decisions, 3 years away from the music industry machine is deemed pretty much akin to career suicide. However, according to the press release to promote their upcoming third album to be released in autumn, Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird just needed to unplug from all of it.

And unplug from it they did, from their crazy touring schedule and the crazy existence their lives had turned into. And, rather shockingly to me, they needed to unplug from each other, “to alleviate the increasing passive aggressive tensions within it [the band] and battle their various demons”. Wow. As we’ve seen many a band implode for no more reason than that old chestnut “familiarity breeds contempt”, perhaps the foresight to open the pressure valve before the strain became too great will prove the reason for Two Door’s longevity for years to come. Now, however, we should consider their first song since their forced separation, ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’.

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Having done the initial brainstorming and sketches for their third album over email – a necessity, now that Trimble lives in Portland, Halliday is in London and Baird now calls Los Angeles home – this first taster from ‘Gameshow’ indicates that we’re in for a potentially bumpy ride. Bumpy, in the sense that it appears Two Door have eschewed the obvious hooks and pop sensibilities that made them quick favourites with the kids. Trimble says of the new album, “We’re not embracing the pop that’s going on now in a melodic or structural sense. The two biggest influences for me were Prince and Bowie: both total pioneers who straddled that line between out-there pop and avant-garde craziness.” Uh huh. When asked about how the new single came out, Trimble explains:

While I was writing this single I discovered this term weltschmertz, the German word for being at odds with the world around you. The fact that it was a fully coined term and related to so many people that have existed and do exist made me feel it was okay to not exist on the same level as everyone else, it was okay to be comfortable doing your own thing. ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’ was me…not attacking the world around me but outlining why I don’t really get it and why I don’t fit in with it.

The lines “you should be comfortable, don’t think at all” and “you get paid, don’t need any respect” seem to be direct nods to the disaffected creatures performing on a stage they became after becoming indie heroes to a global legion of fans. Through the song, there is a definite sense of mocking of society, albeit a veiled one, as Trimble highlights through his lyrics the inanity of a world made up of people who can’t think for themselves. Thematically, it recalls for me a single last year by The 1975, ‘Love Me’, in which Matthew Healy pointed out the decline of pop music as an art form because of the absurdity of success and how it has changed music.

It’s important to note that you can still dance to Two Door Cinema Club on ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’. This is a very good thing. But their songwriting formula has changed. As Trimble says, they’ve chosen to go towards a different kind of pop sound: one that is far less immediate, while allowing for a more cerebral approach with the lyrics. I have to admit, I didn’t like this song at all the first time I listened to it. It truly bothered all my senses that Sam Halliday’s guitar doesn’t sing on here as how I remembered it did on either of their first two albums. If you compare the new single to their previous efforts, there’s a scarily palpable void melodically. They certainly don’t sound like the band I remember.

However, after a few more listens, a strange thing happened. It began to grow on me. The emotional content comes across in spades in Trimble’s voice, and it’s a nice progression from the heart-wrenching vocal delivery in the chorus of ‘Beacon’ track ‘Sun’. Maybe this is the key to appreciating it properly? By choosing the road less travelled, Two Door Cinema Club have consciously taken artistic control of their music. However, this also means they’ve assumed all of the risk for their future. Did they make the right decision? We’ll have to wait until October to find out.

8/10

Two Door Cinema Club’s single ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’ is available now. ‘Gameshow’, their forthcoming third album produced by Jacknife Lee, will be out on the 14th of October on Parlophone Records. To read any or all of TGTF’s comprehensive back archive of on Two Door, go here.

 
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About Us

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

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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.

All MP3s are posted with the permission of the artists or their representatives and are for sampling only. Like the music? Buy it. If you want a track removed, email us and we'll sort it ASAP.

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