As statements for the announcement of a new album go, launching the record into literal space must rank pretty highly. The lofty revealing of the artwork for ‘False Alarm’, the fourth album from Two Door Cinema Club, also ushered in a marked visual change for the Northern Irish trio. Highly stylised for the first time, the kitschy, filmic cover (a thematic trend that runs throughout the visuals for the album and its singles) comes in stark contrast to a band who have previously been largely anonymous as people while their music has seen them quietly rise into the upper echelons of the UK indie game.
With first album hits ‘What You Know’, ‘Undercover Martyn’ et al still staples at indie discos, the band’s tour for ‘False Alarm’ includes a date at London’s O2 Arena, and few would consider that a stretch. Across this decade-long tenure, they’ve followed their still-adored debut with a decent second album in 2012’s ‘Beacon’, a well-publicised fracturing that led to the band almost breaking up, and a return four years later with 2016’s passable but underwhelming ‘Gameshow’. And while ‘Gameshow’ was purported to be the band’s big cutting of ties, and a comeback album to wipe the slate clean, it’s actually ‘False Alarm’ that sees Two Door striding out, taking risks and prioritising fun and recklessness over form.
In ‘Satellite’, a song complete with a stupid-but-it-knows-it sci-fi parody of a video, they have a true, wide-eyed indie-pop hit, complete with Alex Trimble’s warped, digitised attempt at booming Bowie-esque vocals. Across the album, the vocalist’s tone travels all over the shop, from slightly chipmunked on the truly bizarre ‘Think’ to a previously unheard falsetto on the overblown closer ‘Already Gone’. They’re all efforts that made Two Door and their vocalist incredibly easy to laugh at given their past output, but just simply by putting themselves in that firing line ‘False Alarm’ arrives as a refreshing risk. It also only takes one look at the album cover or the ‘Satellite’ video to know they’re firmly in on the joke, or as Alex winks in the chorus of the aforementioned single: “We’re going places, you’re coming with us.”
Elsewhere, the band channel Depeche Mode on the hyperactive ‘Dirty Air’, but fall short on ‘Break’, in which Alex’s narrator skills fail to carry the slow-jam, and especially in the limp delivery of lines such as “I could shape rock’n’roll”. Keeping the running length at a taut 10 tracks helps ‘False Alarm’’s cause, with the album just about falling on the acceptable side of wild experimentation, and any more baggage serving to tip the scales.
Two Door’s fourth effort is far from a wall-to-wall success, but for a band who could so easily continue to tread their affable, well-worn path around arenas and festival main stages without a sideward step (as many of their indie contemporaries have and will continue to do), the risks and experimentation here are very welcome.