After four years of time apart that followed the cruel pressures of wild popularity and touring, Two Door Cinema Club have kept themselves alive and together. Sonically, the confident pop-gloss of Gameshow betrays none of the tension-and-illness-ridden hell they’ve gone through. Their iconic guitar sparkle has morphed into synth shine, and their punk rhythms and knotty riffs have been smoothed to disco funk beats. The lyrics, however, point to intentional, darker messages of being consumed by consumerism or being disconnected in the Internet Age. Nothing terribly revelatory, and even with the backing children’s choir on lead single ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’, lines such as “There’s always something else/ Waiting on the shelf” fall flat on the ear and mind.
Alex Trimble’s vocals, warm and spirited on the first two albums, sit in the background. We start to miss his previous expressiveness, where the poetry of a single line (remember “She spoke words that would melt in your hands”?) captured the ear in a way repeating words cannot. There are definitely moments where their funk/80s/Prince-inspired dance party truly comes alive especially with the affected whoops and classic rockstar abandon of ‘Gameshow’; or the bright falsetto and groovy bass of ‘Fever’ and ‘Je Viens De La’, with Trimble blazing at cosmic pitches in the chorus. Some of it seems to be a tentative experiment in new sounds, such as the overt synths in ‘Surgery’ and ‘Lavender’, which sounds vaguely like a retro video game. The lyrics are puzzling at times—what does “And if I sleep tonight/ The cosmic radiation/ I won’t complain” on ‘Lavender’ even mean?—and dully lovelorn at others. It’s all not enough to lift itself out of the slush of crooning guitars, tinkly effects and regular beats. This and the incoherence of lyrics leaves us with nothing to grasp at and the album fades away forgetfully like music you heard while shopping for groceries.
At the heart of the album lies an anxiety about what is “safe”, and what is “interesting”. Consciously creating music in the vein of pop music for decades, the new Two Door Cinema Club positions themselves at a tangent to what they were. They try to repudiate certain aspects of contemporary culture and expectations of themselves as the typical indie rock band. What is new to them may not be to us, sadly, and Gameshow, for all its groove and verve, fails to captivate because we’ve heard a lot of it before. It lacks the surprise and imagination of a truly glorious retro-inspired creation such as say, ‘Random Access Memories’. Although the songs are longer, choruses and bridges pan out predictably and the heavy-handed production leaves us cold. There are moments of brilliant melodic writing are in riffs and solos here and there. Overall we should be very glad that they’re back, and there is more than enough in the new album to party to, which I’m sure plenty will in their upcoming sold-out tourBy Christine Tan