Online Music Editor Megan Frost reviews Two Door Cinema Club’s latest album
With eccentric and eclectic block colours and quintessential quirky style, Two Door Cinema’s fourth album mixes colours and seesaws between styles. Their electronic sound is a throwback towards 80s funky pop – alike to their last album Gameshow. Yet, lyrically it is futuristic, particularly within ‘Think’ which has high-pitched autotune that differ from the accustomed Two Door Cinema Club vocals. The line “Count one to ten/Start again/Repeat” unveils the album’s recurring motif of time and its robotic nature, and its tension with this to break past form. In this, False Alarm centres around both the internet and technology with its threats to self-identity; Two Door Cinema Club’s identity in this album is haphazard itself and, indeed and probably intentionally, an alarm. So, what makes it also false? The album plays this game with its many paradoxes, such as its simple yet hard-to-interpret lyrics, patches of varying pitches, and jolts between catchy riffs to the muted down – or in some cases the muted out.
The singles released over the past few months are infectious anomalies; the rest on the album seemingly lack their catchiness and so become side-lined a little. Despite being downbeat, they are still to be appreciated in terms of experimentalism; they just differ from the singles. Most of the singles released hinted towards a prevalent motif of technology and its dangers which the band attempt to break away from. ‘Break’ definitely continues this as it uses mainly background noise and echo – lyrically pinpointed as it “gets a louder echo”. Despite the bass overtaking, it is utterly simple making it a meditative piece with its light picked electric guitar and staccato synth chords. With sounds of technology breaking down and echoes struggling to break out, the piece ends on the album’s discordance with technology. The album is mainly technology-orientated in its synth sounds – a tension with its lyrical disillusionment resulting in the break-down of ‘Break’. Scoping the scene of an urban city full of “pieces of stained glass” and “shame”, ‘Dirty Air’ lines itself with some sort of mechanistic breakdown – “a machine running self-control” with hyperactive loudspeakers and strummed chords. A bongo-like busking drum scene on the streets – with someone shouting and a noise that could resemble a countdown – is a final moment of energy within the song’s bridge before combustion. A piece that encompasses a world of machines – “conversation” and “imitation” being fused together- is ‘Satellite’ which churns the present into “history made” that becomes mobilised in its “going places”.
The singles released over the past few months are infectious anomalies
As though wading through waves, ‘Once’ is synthesis led by two repeating notes that overturn as smoothly as “another breaking wave” – the last one is dragged out longer and crescendos into a higher pitch. The tune begins with a chime-like sound that fuses into a fast-forwarding sound effect. So, too, the song is all about both time, lyrically, and timing in terms of instrumentation. This is a glossy finish as though the song itself is “getting stuck…with magazines” as it slots into the rest of the album. The verses are more instrumentally intricate, yet retain the same pitch to reside for vocals and layered electric guitar to take over. The chorus retains the predominant two notes from before the first verse, sounding more stripped down and gliding like a “shadow playing on the wall”. Also using two predominant synthesiser notes is ‘So Many People’, yet it’s much dreamier and funkier despite its heavier live drum kit. A wonky synthesiser and harmonies take place on certain words, causing discoordination. Furthering this is a flash of a false start right before the chorus that mutes the music, giving a jolting sensation as we progress through. The chorus changes halfway to a call and response style like most of ‘Satellite’. Lines like “thought/talked/forgot…about it” slot together, making the lyrics a “pattern in (the) head”. These coincide with some of the rhymes in ‘Talk’.
So many of the songs on False Alarm, despite its patchiness, pair well to other songs. In reverse to the beginning of ‘Once’, the ending to ‘So Many People’ slows down to “keep to pace” at a more muted “different speed”. Yet, this bears resemblance to the ending of ‘Think’ which is muted, yet varies in tempos; its impact is of changing perspective with something getting closer than recurring back to its original distance. It is as though the listener is stepping in and out of the song.
The album is mainly technology-orientated in its synth sounds
The album features collaborations such as ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ featuring the Zimbawiean Makoomba. This is similar to the band’s usual style, but is lyrically stimulating as it focuses on anticipation and the “closer ahead” of an afterlife and being “(Buried) under the waves” – an escapism from technology. ‘Nice To See You’ features Mike Eagle’s raps near the end with mutes like waves breaking out from the “buried under” state of ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. This tune is highly bass-led with jangly synthesisers, cowbells, and downward scales proceeding choruses which really emphasises the breaking out of identity.
False Alarm is a break-out in many ways: sound that becomes muted at times, disillusioned lyrics, and the breaking out of Two Door Cinema Club’s identity and image.