Two Door Cinema Club: Keep On Smiling review
The Bangor band's fifth album does exactly what it says on the tin - it brims with light, hope and indie pop goodness.
Released in March 2010, Two Door Cinema Club's debut Tourist History is a record that now holds legendary appeal. Full of upbeat jangly bangers which draw comparisons to early Foals and Bloc Party, the Northern Irish trio produced preppy, indie-dance crossover anthems that went down a storm. At first its success was modest (it debuted at the lofty height of number 46 on the UK Albums Chart…), yet its legacy today is on par with some of the great albums of indie sleaze's heyday. For many (yours truly included), it's still very much a go to record in 2022 as was in 2010!
Over the next couple of years, they'd establish themselves as one of the most in demand bands in the indie scene, both in the Europe and North America. Not bad for three guys who initially had the mickey taken out of them by the music press for their perceived geek-chic, librarian personas. By 2012, it felt like their tunes were everywhere. Bops like 'What You Know', 'Undercover Martyn' and 'You Can Talk' had snippets constantly played on our television screens and they'd become favourites at many a nightclub to rival the musings of The Killers and Arctic Monkeys. As a result of their success, singer Alex Trimble was even selected to sing at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony.
Twelve years later and little has changed, TDCC are as big as ever. The only problem is when we think of the band, often our minds are immediately drawn to their timeless debut: most of their other work doesn't get a look in. As evidenced by recent headline slots at Nos Alive (Portugal) and Benicassim (Spain), the trio are now regarded as a top-tier band and it's those early tunes that by far gather the best reaction.
Where second album Beacon (2012) felt underwhelming when released so soon after their debut, Keep Qn Smiling does, in fact, achieve the opposite. This, of course, is achieved by going in without expectation. The results are pleasantly surprisingly - infectious and colourful tunes that reveal a more electronic sound progression yet still maintain a level of dancefloor immediacy.
Two Door Cinema Club's fifth studio album was written and produced by the band both during and coming out of lockdown. They haven't been afraid to collaborate either, with additional production coming from Jackaife Lee (Bloc Party, The Killers) and Dan Grech Marguerat (Lana Del Rey, George Ezra). Opener 'Messenger AD' is an intense sci-fi inspired opening so far removed from their guitar-pop origins you're left wondering if it's in fact the same band you're listening to. In fairness, this boldness works to their credit. It really is a perfect introduction.
Throughout Keep On Smiling there's a distinctive and fun electro-funk vibe running throughout. 'Blue Light' is a punchy funk-rock number to carry the momentum whilst hip movers 'Everybody's Cool' and 'Little Piggy' slower the pace to great groovy effect. The latter track is a smooth jam to compliment Trimble's deliciously euphoric falsetto singing - an instant favourite. When listening to the majority of these tracks, its hard not to find similarities to Foals' excellent June-released Life Is Yours record, admittedly a level below the Oxford band’s album of the year contender. The tunes are accomplished, occasionally tender and, above all else, enjoyable to listen to.
Described as "a nod back to the pure rush of Two Door Cinema Club's early output" in a press release, 'Wonderful Life' is classic TDCC - sunny, immediate and featuring positivity at its heart. By the bridge, you may even have yourself asking if The Killers singer Brandon Flowers has made a guest appearance! "But if we choose to forget what we've come to regret / Oh, if we only knew" declares frontman Alex Trimble with a voice in ode to the Las Vegas icon. Thankfully the similarity doesn’t distract too much.
'Lucky' is another summery synth-pop single full of reflection, echoes to 2012's dancefloor banger 'Changing of the Seasons'. It might not have the same punch as 'Wonderful Life', but it's hard to deny its infectious Balearic vibes. Where the album has been full of positivity and light to this point, ‘Disappearer' ends the album on an uneasy ominous note. It's a spectacular finale - the sound of a band saving their best to last and opening their sound palette even further.
Keep On Smiling does exactly what it says on the tin - it brims with light, hope and indie pop goodness. It further proves that Two Door Cinema Club are an excellent band still developing their sound and identity. Now isn't it time we started taking their new music more seriously and stopped defining them by their era-defining debut?