When Two Door Cinema Club asserted themselves into our earholes with their debut album Tourist in 2010, it was as though they couldn’t put a foot wrong. Catchy hook after catchy hook, the Northern Irish trio solidified a prominent position as one of the go-to indie-rock bands amidst the post-Britpop comedown.
Tourist no doubt remains their most memorable project, the recognisable riffs of ‘What You Know’ harking back to simpler times (and is even still used in the odd TV advert). Its success has helped preserve a steady stream of fans willing to give each new record a chance, albeit dwindling album to album.
In fact, all three albums that followed Tourist made their way into the top five in the charts; yet that’s arguably because fans were hoping to hear that jittering spark so often heard on the band’s debut.
So it seemed like an act of shutting up shop when they announced that with Keep On Smiling, Two Door Cinema Club’s latest record, they were abandoning multi-format editions, outstore gigs and – as confirmed by a rather eerie video – were limiting the record’s vinyl presses to just 5,000.
Clever marketing ploy to create scarcity, or a desire to save face? Only the band and their team really know the answer. (Marketing was clearly on the band’s sci-fi-esque opener, ‘Messenger Ad’, however).
Colin Schaverien, co-founder of the Lower Third label it’s being released on, was rather open to Music Week, stating that when it came to vying for a position in the charts, the band no longer “want to do that dance”
“They’ve managed to bank a huge amount of amazing music,” he added, “it was more about how we strategically get that out into the market over a long, elongated campaign, alongside the live campaign.”
If the marketing manoeuvre is born out of a need to protect themselves, that would be a shame, even if it is a different collation of sounds than the majority of Two Door Cinema Club’s prior releases. Matching the vibrant aesthetic of its cover art, for the most part Keep On Smiling slinks into a feverish, indie-synth dance album – much like Foals’ Life Is Yours achieved earlier this year.
‘Blue Light’ gives us a shimmy and a shake, declaring “we’re all just animals… it’s a kind of miracle”. So why not loosen up and enjoy a dance? ‘Millionaire’, a terrifically ironic song to be putting out into the world amidst a cost-of-living crisis, is the most enjoyable groove on the record, before winding down with a warm, neon glow.
It doesn’t always work. ‘Everybody’s Cool’ is a rather cringe-sounding theme tune to a frat party, reminiscent of the now rather dated-sounding opener to Calvin Harris’ debut album, I Created Disco. ‘Lucky’ and lead single ‘Wonderful Life’ sound like they’ve been heard many a time before, lyrically and sonically, despite their evidently upbeat messaging.
Closing track ‘Disappearer’ sounds like lead singer Alex Trimble is at least having fun with a vocoder, and it’s on this record where their tension between former success and the desire to now do just that – have fun – comes once more to the fore.
“I knew the crown would be heavy / But what a view”, Trimble sings, before the whirring, slightly tortured coda, presumably talking to themselves, “There’s no reason here we should fear (Di-sa-ppearer) / A good reason here to disappear (Di-sa-ppear)”.
It should be remembered that in 2014, it took Trimble being hospitalised due to the effect of stomach ulcers (their headline slot at Latitude replaced by Lily Allen in the process), for the band to realise they needed a break. That they need, as their new album’s final track makes note of, to disappear. In that regard, it’s certainly good to see the band back – and you can’t blame them, for whatever reason, for taking off the intense heat of any chart pressure.
Their album has a certain enjoyable, danceable joie de vivre. Indeed, it’ll keep you smiling, if only subtly. But it makes you realise: Christ, their debut was good.