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Two Door Cinema Club: Beacon
Their first album, Tourist History, is like an ecstasy pill to the ears. As soon as it’s finished, you’ll find your finger moving towards the play button, wanting to start it over. It's no wonder that on its promotional tour the young and fresh trio morphed numerous festival grounds and dance floors across the world into a mass of people collectively and ecstatically jumping up and down.
The thing about drugs, though, is that their feel-good effects are temporary. Their instant gratification leaves you standing empty-handed when the rush is over; the same is true for Two Door Cinema Club’s music. As soon as their final beats grow silent, their songs instantly become a distant memory, only to be revived when you listen to their music again.
Two Door Cinema Club are back at it with their second effort, Beacon, and sadly the forty minute collection of new songs is very much a repeat performance. The biggest problem is that you won’t notice a difference between the first and the second album.
If you shuffle the songs of both albums, it would be impossible to pinpoint which song belongs on what album. They are practically interchangeable. It's all upbeat, happy, sing-along-after-only-one-spin tunes, despite vocalist Alex Trimble’s semi-philosophical teen angst lyrics; ‘He needs no army where he's headed/‘cause he knows that they're just ghosts’, from ‘Sleep Alone’ is a prime example of this. Even worse, it is difficult to differentiate between songs in themselves, let alone what album they are on.
The fidgety guitars and energetic rhythms get to shine in the limelight of Beacon once again, but innovative musical ideas were definitely not a priority for these eleven new tracks.
Beacon starts off promisingly with an arrhythmic, stuttering beat followed by an abrupt a cappella vocal on album opener ‘Next Year’, but then reverts back to the old tricks of frantic guitar riffs and straightforward drums.
‘The World is Watching’ is another feeble attempt at breaking the typical Two Door Cinema mould with its sweet sounding female background choir, string section and guitar melody reminiscent of African music.
But that really is as exciting as its going to get. Overall, Two Door Cinema Club have failed to permanently satisfy, just like drugs eventually will.
In the tradition of Tourist History, the newer album, Beacon, is nothing more than a fleeting sugar high that’s ultimately all what dance floor shakers and festival goers of this world need for a quick and easy fix.
Just ask Guns ‘n Roses’ Axl Rose or try and listen to any recent Korn album without cringing. Many bands quit (R.E.M., Sonic Youth), others tone down their sound (Metallica) and some keep regurgitating what they’ve been doing for decades (The Rolling Stones).
Kim Thayil’s guitar traditionally wails around on the dissonant side of the spectrum and singer Chris Cornell still deals out high-pitched screeches like a rock version of Celine Dion – but they have audibly matured. And considering that the grunge kids of two decades ago have aged with them, many will appreciate this more grown-up, adult sound.
After 52 minutes, one question remains: now that Soundgarden seems to have arrived at their definitive sound, will they become one of those established bands that don’t evolve anymore? Like fellow Seattle-ites Pearl Jam, or grandfathers of rock Aerosmith, for example. Or will they continue to develop their sound, like Muse or Radiohead?
Few artists in today’s indie scene have as prolific a back catalogue as Kurt Vile. In the space of seven years, he’s managed to release six solo albums, six EPs, and two albums with his former band The War On Drugs (who received critical acclaim themselves with 2014’s instant classic Lost In the Dream). Suffice it say, Kurt Vile has cultivated a mystique around himself that makes every release a bonafide event on the musical calendar, and the complicatedly named release b’lieve I’m goin down… is part and parcel of that.
The album’s opener and debut single, ‘Pretty Pimpin’, is a bittersweet ode to Kurt’s youth, and is a damning indictment of the façade of “hip” that many indie artists have created. Singing “I woke up this morning/Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror/ Then I laughed and I said, Oh silly me, that’s just me”, you can really feel Vile’s dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the scene. The introduction of subtle synth tones towards the end of the track gives it an almost orchestral quality, undercutting the bluesy folk-style guitar rather nicely.
The album is interspersed with smatterings of soulful neo-Americana, with the album’s second track, ‘I’m An Outlaw’, sounding a little like a modern day Johnny Cash. The layering of banjo, guitar, and electric organ harkens back to the romantic notions of driving down Route 66 with the top down. The neo-Americana style doesn’t end there, with the later track ‘All in a Daze Work’ being one of the best songs released I’ve heard in a long time. Vile’s imperfect yet beautiful vocals dance with his guitar, telling the abstract story of a damaging former love. With long parts of the song being instrumental, the sparseness of the instrumentation and vocals is haunting to say the least.
That’s not to say that the album is unrelenting in its melancholy vibe. The next track, ‘Lost My Head’, shows some slight old-school r&b vibes, with piano taking the forefront instead of guitar, and a rising dreamy synth section in the middle, this track is a testament to the diversity of Vile’s inspiration and his musical versatility, sounding like something ‘The Moody Blues’ would have released in the 60s.
So remember what was said earlier about every Kurt Vile release being an event? Well the man doesn’t disappoint; this is easily one of the best albums of the year. Not a single moment, note, lyric or beat is wasted and all these things come together to create some incredible musical moments. I cannot say this clearly enough; listen to this album now. Listen to it, and then listen to it again.