Bands all deal with fame in different ways. Some embrace it, and actively cultivate their following, while others shun the limelight. For Irish rock group Two Door Cinema Club, it turned out to be too much of a good thing. Their 2010 debut album Tourist History propelled the band to fame with a dance-rock sound that combined the best parts of Foals, Bloc Party, and the Rapture. They followed this up with Beacon only two years later, which was slightly softer around the edges and arguably more formulaic than its predecessor. Both albums were accompanied by vigorous touring schedules that kept the band on the move for almost three years straight. This pace reportedly took its toll, pushing them towards a life of hedonism and exhaustion they weren’t prepared for. Radiohead perhaps summed up this feeling best when they named their second album “The Bends.”
Two Door Cinema Club took some time off following Beacon’s tours and effectively went on hiatus to take a step back from the brink. When the band reconvened to record new music last year, it was therefore done delicately, and with a great deal of introspection. Frontman Alex Trimble said of the new release “almost all of the album is in some way about ego and identity and finding your place in the world.” This sounds awfully heavy for a band who made their name with lively, party-friendly music, so would Two Door Cinema Club’s third album showcase a more solemn sound?
Gameshow answers this with a resounding “no.” Instead of toning things down, Two Door Cinema Club turned things up to 11 and made their glitziest album to date. The guitar and hi-hat-driven dance-rock that made Tourist History such a memorable album is gone, replaced by a mishmash of synthpop, disco, funk and glam. Likewise, there’s few traces of the soft, sincere inflection behind Trimble’s voice that once intoned lines like “she spoke words that would melt in your hands,” and Trimble instead spends much of Gameshow singing in falsetto. Only the title track has the same frantic rock style honed during their first two studio albums.
To Trimble’s credit, much of Gameshow does fit his introspective mission statement, albeit in a subtle manner buried beneath a thick pop sheen. Opening track “Are We Ready? (Wreck)” takes numerous jabs at consumer culture and the need for instant gratification amidst a chorus of “na-na-nas” and stop-and-go beats. “Bad Decisions” is a lamentation about the information overload contemporary media provides, yet you might be more focused on the cheesy 80s bass effects and keyboards. And “Fever” seems to be a reflection on the band’s hard-partying tour days and their lack of self-control, but sounds like a party soundtrack itself with a disco-like chorus.
While the contrast between thought-provoking lyrics and garish melodies may seem peculiar, the real peculiarity is that Gameshow throws the proverbial kitchen sink of genres at its production but somehow seems to lack energy. Most of the tracks feature explosive choruses where all of the various beats and riffs come to a fore, but the intervening verses offer little in between. Sure, Two Door Cinema Club may have been guilty of this in the past, but it feels so much more pronounced here. The addition of conclusive tracks like the vaguely hip-hop sounding “Lavender” and awkward ballad “Invincible” certainly doesn’t help either.
There is one track that exceeds all expectations, and that is Gameshow’s closing track “Je Viens De La.” This song shows Two Door Cinema Club at their most unabashed, fully embracing their new sound by combining disco beats, Daft Punk-like guitars, and Trimble’s most passionate vocal delivery on the album. The result is an amazing show of the band’s potential, and vaguely sounds like the aforementioned track “Fever” on steroids.
When Two Door Cinema Club were recording Gameshow, they referred to its predecessor Beacon as “safe” and wanted their new album to take steps in new, exciting directions. However, it seems like much of this new terrain involved mining sounds of decades past, and listening to Gameshow you may start to realize almost every indie band has done this. The result is that throughout the course of Gameshow, you’ll constantly hear bits and pieces that remind you more of other musicians than a convincing new direction for Two Door Cinema Club. There are hints of Foster the People, Bastille, and Empire of the Sun, and even the track “Bad Decisions” vaguely sounds like “Forgive & Forget” by the Kooks. Tourist History may not have been wholly original, but its dedication to a consistent dance-rock style made it incredibly memorable. Gameshow demonstrates moments of passion, particularly on its title track and closer, but if it’s meant to represent a new step, it’s a hesitant one.