Photo Credit: Katy Cummings
Maybe they should be called Two Face Cinema Club. This Northern Ireland band allegedly consists of guitarists – pay attention now: guitarists – Sam Halliday and Alex Trimble (Trimble is also the lead vocalist) and bassist Kevin Baird. Concert photos found through a Google image search show these same people playing these instruments live onstage, along with an actual flesh-and-blood (touring) drummer. All the immediate evidence would clearly seem to imply that Two Door Cinema Club is a guitar rock band. However, it’s impossible to mistake their new release (and third album) False Alarm as anything but a synth record.
Semantics notwithstanding, False Alarm happens to be a darn good synth record. The opening cut, “Once,” is a nice enough welcome to the album. It is catchy and inviting but clearly all business, even throwing the listener a curve with a minor-note instrumental break. The promise of the track is expanded upon in “Talk,” with its resemblance to Heaven 17 and similar Eighties synth acts (that’s a compliment). “Satellite” starts out sounding a bit like Trio’s “Da Da Da” before sliding over to the bouncy Obama-era optimism of more recent bands like Foster the People. “Nice to See You” mostly suggests early Wham! (yes, that’s a thing), but also presents the obligatory nod to the solid rap by Open Mike Eagle and a synth riff lifted from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s immortal 1982 track “The Message.”
On the subject of messages, “Dirty Air” starts out as a let’s-go-out-and-party-in-the-city anthem before conceding to the potentially very real dark side of that lifestyle: “The sky is falling so pull up a chair // Everyone’s watching like nobody cares // The queen of fashion, ahead of her time // Whatever happens, the pleasure is mine.” Ironically, perhaps, this ode to the double-edge sword of seemingly inclusive urban social experiences for which dance music is typically the soundtrack – Seventies disco, Nineties rave etc. – is also the closest thing to an actual guitar rock track on the album, though it’s definitely more Keiser Chiefs than, say, Foo Fighters.
In fact, False Alarm never gives us the token full guitar track that we might expect, even though we figure the band would want use their guitars since, well, they obviously paid for them (maybe they have a really good endorsement deal?) Otherwise, the album takes a surprising while to ease into a bit more variety in sound, which even then is fairly limited. But it’s worth the wait for the strong and highly memorable mid-tempo album closer “Already Gone.”
Getting back to the duality suggested by the band’s name, the is-it-indie-rock-or-is-it-EDM conundrum is at least arguably decided by the relatively short length of the songs (although some self-appointed re-mixer is probably in his basement concocting superfluous hour-long versions of every track as you read this). Still, even at these original lengths, some of the songs on False Alarm just teeter on wearing out their welcomes (the Spotify version of the album even includes the single edits of “Talk” and “Satellite,” which many listeners might be bound to favor).
As for the works’ potential audience on the whole: fans of comfortable, tight, bouncy synth-pop will want to answer the call of False Alarm, while those fair-weather or case-by-case listeners of the aforementioned will probably want to experience Two Door Cinema Club conscious of which of those two doors is the exit.
WRITTEN BY RICHARD JOHN CUMMINS