Two Door Cinema Club - Keep On Smiling review: A dose of renewed energy


Keeping going for five albums is quite a feat for an indie pop band, a genre where acts tend to shine blazing bright upon arrival before beginning a similarly rapid descent. It’s now over 12 years since Northern Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club turned their debut album, Tourist History, into a platinum seller straight out of grammar school.

They succumbed to the pressure after the follow-up, Beacon, went to number one, with frontman Alex Trimble experiencing such stress that he was hospitalised with stomach ulcers in 2014 when he should have been headlining Latitude festival. The next two albums were more serious in tone and vanished from the top 40 quickly, and with the lull of the pandemic period thrown in, it would seem like momentum is lost. But in their absence the global success of Glass Animals has shown that there’s still a huge hunger for bands who know their way around a synthesizer, as long as the songs are strong.

To that end, there’s a renewed energy to this collection, and as the album title and its palm tree-lined cover suggest, what feels like sunny optimism. There’s an irony in there too, of course – undiluted positivity is surely impossible after the last few years, and there’s something a little darker going on by the time we get to the lumbering closing track, Disappearer. “I knew the crown would be heavy, but what a view,” Trimble sings.

But get the unnecessarily grandiose instrumental intro track out of the way and the guitars are turned down, synths turned up, and there’s a great deal of fun to be had. The rubbery electronics and disco guitar of Blue Light set the real tone: danceable, energetic pop songs that show obvious appeal on the first listen.

Lucky races along on a strong bassline and whooshing keys that should please Killers fans. Wonderful Life probably takes the bounciness too far, with a relentless energy and catchiness that may tire the listener out, but at least it shows how hungry they are for a hit single. Little Piggy is better, with a fine chorus that sounds all the sweeter for the distorted vocals and awkward guitar that lead towards it.

There are odder moments, such as the speech samples and long run-up to Millionaire’s shimmering ABBA disco, and the robotic funk of Won’t Do Nothing, but there’s lots here with the potential to take the band back to where they were at the beginning.

(Lower Third)