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Album: Two Door Cinema Club - Keep On Smiling | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Two Door Cinema Club - Keep On Smiling

Album: Two Door Cinema Club - Keep On Smiling

An uneven return, but a passing grade for the electronic-infused indie trio

'Day-glo standout melodies'

Three and a half years on from 2019’s False Alarm, Keep On Smiling comes album number five from Northern Ireland trio, Two Door Cinema Club. Known for having more bounce to the ounce than your average band, their brand of guitar-flecked electro pop has won hearts, minds and sales in roughly equal measure.

Confounding expectations from the start, the new album is neatly (nearly) bookended by two instrumentals, the brooding “Messenger AD” and its penultimate partner piece “Messenger HD”. The first brings to mind heyday John Carpenter (or Stranger Things depending on your age). Clocking in at nearly three minutes, it’s a brave choice to introduce the album.

It’s also a bit of a dropped shoulder, a misdirect – albeit an interesting one. What follows falls, broadly speaking, into quirky, angular indie-synth singalongs, and dense, layered radio-friendly pop built for stadia and Stateside. Or possibly Stateside stadia, given the band’s touring schedule for the next few months.

It’s the former that suits the band’s strengths best. Keep On Smiling comes alive when the band are in their indie dance element, when they’re playing fast and cross, chipper and chippy. These are the waters in which the melodies hook hardest. Recent single “Lucky” speeds along at a motoric pace and a bassline to match, and provides the perfect platform for the sugar sweet synths and familiar falsetto.

Speaking of familiar, there are fleeting reference points popping up through this collection: Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, Aztec Camera’s pure pop phrasing, even a touch of the Chris Isaaks on midpoint breather track “High”, all appear to have ended up in the Two Door melting pot.

So far, so good. However, whether it's the band trying to flesh out their sound, or producers putting too much meat on the bone, there are occasions when the production becomes too crowded, leaving the songs too little room to breathe. “Wonderful Life” is billed as a return to the energetic rush of the band’s early output but, as the song progresses, it pushes everything to the foreground while bellowing its intentions. Similarly, the overly compressed and oddly auto-tuned “Disappearer” seems an odd choice to close the album, sacrificing playful nuance for lumpen drums and too many layers. 

It's a shame as, in a forest of bands dressed in indie camo, Two Door Cinema Club’s melodies and hooks remain day-glo standouts. They just need to make sure they’re not shouting too loud to be heard.

@jahshabby

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