Ten years on from when they started attracting mainstream attention for their ferociously energetic, quintessentially indie guitar licks, Two Door Cinema Club is almost unrecognisable. Having largely shaken off their guitar-pop image with 2016’s funkily indie-electronic Gameshow, False Alarm sees the band firmly establish its new identity as a funky disco-chic 80s throwback pop.
Long-term fans will no doubt be divided on this entry into the band’s catalogue. Where once guitars were the beating heart of the tracks, they are now buried into the background, albeit with the same level of intricacy and craft that the band has always boasted. Now, the band’s distinguishing characteristics are the 80s synth keys and Trimble’s distinctive vocals, which oscillate wildly between high-register pop refrains and semi-sexy deep tones.
If all this sounds a bit like a band suffering an identity crisis, that’s because it kind of is. The band seems very conscious of its need to reconcile its indie ferocity of yesteryear with it’s new synth-led sounds, and that leads us to tracks like ‘Dirty Air’, which feels like it could have perfectly fit as a post-Beacons single to bridge the band’s sounds. Urged forwards by driving drums and dominating-yet-suppressed guitar riffery, it’s the closest the band has been to the sound that made it in years. Followed up by pre-release single ‘Satellite’, it hits like a one-two combo of momentous indie goodness for old and new fans alike.
And that’s what makes False Alarm such an interesting album: even if it is the sound of a band struggling with its identity, it still flows seamlessly and it is a strong addition to any artist’s repertoire. Opening track ‘Once’ is a soft, strangely rousing number with the potential for a few magical singalong moments. ‘Talk’ combines a solid chorus with an infectious bassline and a seductively steady rhythm that is among the most easily accessible and effortlessly enjoyable tracks the band has ever produced.
Unsurprisingly, its the tracks where the band manages to get a steady balance between its old and new self that stand out on the album. By and large, the rest fall into the realm of background noise – they’re enjoyable and worth listening to on their own merits, but they feel more like ambient album filler. However, we do get some surprisingly good curveballs in there. The loose beats and funked up slowness of ‘Think’, for example, draw immediate parallels to the likes of Jungle, and then there’s ‘Nice To See You’, notable mostly for including something the band has never done before: a guest rap verse. Thoughts on Open Mike Eagle’s verse itself notwithstanding, it’s an interesting turn that adds some variety into the mix.
All of us have unquestionably changed in the past 10 years, so it would be either disingenuous or repetitive if TDCC had stayed the same. Even if it might at times sound like a band finding its feet once again, there’s no doubt that TDCC is in a much better place for having expanded its sound outwards, and in the grand scheme of things the band has done so remarkably well. False Alarm is an enjoyable album from start to finish, with enough powerhouse tracks and curveballs scattered throughout to maintain your attention. The true challenge ahead will be how the group mixes new with old in live settings – it won’t be easily to seamlessly transition from ‘Think’ to ‘Undercover Martyn’.
False Alarm is available now via Spotify, Amazon and (probably) your local music retailer.