Gameshow, the third studio album from Irish indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club, brims with lofty and grandiose lyricism.
Aided by a chorus of children's vocals, "Are We Ready? (Wreck)" opens up the group's record with a declaration against the mindless nature of consumerist culture ("All the stores are bored with all your money/ We follow what's to come/ That's what they sold to me"). Alex Trimble, the band's vocalist, revealed that the word "weltschmerz" — German for world-weariness — provided inspiration for that track. "Bad Decisions," the next song on the album, bemoans the impact of social media on younger generations ("Lately/ Think I've had enough/ Of generation information every station.") And nearing the end of the album, Trimble croons about his skepticism of organized religion throughout the poppy "Good Morning" ("I won't depend on something supernatural/ I won't pretend it's gotta be right for me").
With such pensive musings throughout Gameshow, you'd expect the music to be just as forward-thinking and experimental. But sadly, that is not the case.
That's because much of the album feels like a lazy rehash of disco and early 80's rock — something you would expect to hear for 15 seconds in a movie like Saturday Night Fever, not off a LP from a band that ascended to the top tier of indie rock groups with its 2010 release Tourist History and follow-up Beacon in 2012.
Energetic guitar riffs, Trimble's pure vocals and imaginative lyricism fueled Two Door Cinema Club's first two albums. The tracks on those pair of records pulsated with a certain electricity, acting like an audio espresso shot capable of jolting you awake with just one listen. It all felt fresh and infectiously joyful.
Yet aside from aspirational lyricism, none of that applies to the group's latest release. Hell, at times Gameshow doesn't even sound like Two Door Cinema Club at all. Tiresome techno beats and retro synths are commonplace throughout the album, overshadowing the guitars that made up the backbone of the indie rock band's discography. Trimble ascends to his falsetto for a good portion of the record — an unimpressive imitation of the high-pitched singing style that dominated much of the 70's. The vocals aren't bad, but they're also fairly unremarkable. For an album that boasts such prophetic prose and drastic changes in musical style, it feels ridiculously dull and unoriginal. Nothing that Two Door Cinema Club had ever done before suggested its inclination toward this weird strain of funkpop, and yet here we are so deep in disco fever that I'm surprised the group's members didn't pose with bell bottom jeans and paisley shirts for the cover of Gameshow.
That doesn't mean the album falls flat because it's rooted in throwback jams. It would be one thing if Gameshow successfully evoked the best of musical icons gone by, like David Bowie and Prince, both of whom Trimble described as sources of inspiration for the record. Instead, it sounds like a half-baked fusion of modern groups like DNCE and Cherub known for retro-influenced tunes and soaring, airy vocals.
Luckily, a few tracks save the album from becoming a collection of dated songs you would expect to hear at Karaoke night in a bar filled with 50-somethings. "Gameshow" starts out well with bouncing bass and swift strokes of guitar before it transitions into an explosion of a chorus that finds Trimble's vocals in mid-2000s pop punk territory. "Bad Decisions" manages to overcome the irksome nature of Trimble's disco-esque vocalization with a rapturous guitar solo reminding the listener that, yes, you are indeed listening to Two Door Cinema Club, not a 70's cover band. And an absolute masterpiece of a chorus guaranteed to haunt your mind makes "Ordinary" a strong contender for the best song on Gameshow ("Go ahead, just cover it up/ Let's pretend we're ordinary/ We could be in heaven/ But it's never enough/ It's mine").
But the album still falls well short of Two Door Cinema Club's potential. The group's change in style is so random and so abrupt that it's hard to enjoy Gameshow. There's nothing wrong with switching up one's sound; after all, music would be boring if no band or artist ventured outside the comfortable confines of their first album's sonics. But to completely abandon what gained you fame in the first place is honestly confusing and deflating for fans. That's exactly why Gameshow is Two Door Cinema Club's worst album by far — it ventures so deep into uncharted musical territory for the group that it becomes a record lost in search of a sound that isn't bland or overdone.