There is an exact moment on ‘False Alarm’ where you say to yourself, “Ah so this is what Two Door Cinema Club are in 2019″. It occurs on ‘Nice To See You’, just one of many shruggable songs on Two Door’s fourth album. The song is the sixth on the record, and up to that point you would do well to work out precisely what the Irish band are going for. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, what is that? Rap? On a Two Door Cinema Club song? Okay.
It is Open Mike Eagle‘s feature that justifies the six-minute run-time, but also the album’s underlying motif: of being surprising enough to maintain Two Door Cinema Club’s relevance. Open Mike Eagle is an extremely highly-regarded rapper. He has received universal acclaim in recent years – his presence here raises questions to both parties. ‘Nice To See You’ is an odd cut – a straight-to-the-point bass accompanies some nauseating snarling cynical vocals that gives way for a funky chorus. If it were on the first Two Door record, this would be widely regarded as the most left-field, and weakest, cut. The fact it is one of ‘False Alarm”s strong points is rather telling.
Out of all the bands to emerge in the early 2010s, Two Door Cinema Club have, to their credit, had the most fun. Bombay Bicycle Club embraced sombre maturity, Everything Everything fused pop and doom, while The Vaccines seem to do the same stuff, and hate themselves for it. The difference being that all those bands (the latter is arguable) are so much better at what they do.
Look at that artwork for a second. The two megaphones, the turtlenecks (!), the ironic “Danger, Men at work” sign – it wants us to go on the kookiest, unpredictable trip of our life. The issue is ‘False Alarm’, Two Door Cinema Club’s fourth album, is not just straight, it is a pure joyless slog.
For over forty minutes, Two Door do enough to convince you that they should have another stab at Reading Festival. The hooks are catchy enough to sing along to after a while, the riffs are likeable enough to cope with, the lyrics are socially aware enough to not be completely forgettable. A general aura of enoughness looms over the album.
‘So Many People’ is spearheaded by the most confident performance from vocalist Alex Trimble – his charm sadly wears off quickly. “I have something better than anybody else, I’ve landed”, he boasts on the Chic-esque chorus. It isn’t that braggadocios in context; he sounds confident but not interested in being smug. Single ‘Dirty Air’ is a brash, heart-thumping stand-out; superstar producer Jacknife Lee does a terrific job at giving the song little room to breathe.
Unafraid to push their sound that extra bit further, ‘Think’ is a fascinating highlight. Throughout the song is a battle: Trimble’s vocals have been distorted to sound so heavenly it is unsettling. As each chorus arrives, Trimble tries to break out of the high-pitched transformation. The track is understating, gently plodding along in the background. It is high-wire, at low volume.
It is then a shame that so much of the album is as shallow as it is. ‘Talk’ is by-the-books; the beat starts off with a heavy Azealia Banks’ ‘212’ familiarity. By the time the song gets going, you’d wish you were in the 212. The chorus is crowd-friendly, but certainly not to the ear. If Phoenix wanted to make ‘Ti Amo’ the World’s Biggest Album of 2017, this would be the outcome.
‘Once’ is a solid opener, setting the standard. The chorus’ off-kilter structure constantly leaves you repositioning your guess as to where it goes next. It is also pleasantly optimistic – something the rest of the album unfortunately forgets about. Take the closer, ‘Already Gone’, for example. What is a clear attempt at wide-screen ambition, it is performed with the budget of a college short film.
With ten songs, Two Door Cinema Club still fail at maintaining a level of excitement throughout. ‘False Alarm’ is a disappointing, if very forgettable, entry into a band’s discography – a band that have got by being the party band. There is little to party to here, but their arena-selling audiences might beg to differ. As Two Door will tell you: “Something good can work”. Let us just hope that it happens sooner rather than later.
‘False Alarm’ by Two Door Cinema Club is out now via PIAS Recordings