While Two Door Cinema Club’s first album may have been titled Tourist History, listen to the acclaimed debut album and it doesn’t appear that the rising electro-alternative trio traveled far beyond their hometown grammar school when composing chart-invading hits like “Something Good Can Work” and “Undercover Martyn.” Tourist History was lithe, funky and any other bubbly adjectives you can conjure up, with lyrics and chords reminiscent of kiddie love at a house party. Worldly, it was not. In Beacon, the group’s second full-length album, the pride of Northern Ireland has both literally and musically left their hometown of Bangor, where they met as teenagers. Beacon’s instrumentals are more mature and more processed (mostly in a good way) than the ultra-snappy basslines of its popular predecessor, while its lyrics mirror the experience the band has gained from touring around the world. Add that the album was recorded in Los Angeles and we have lyrics that evoke distance and drip with homesickness for a love in a faraway land. But while some songs look at the melancholies of a transatlantic gap, the guitar and bass lines of Beacon are still mostly upbeat, coated with California sunshine.
One through 12, Beacon’s track list is more complete than TDCC’s first album. The caffeinated “Wake Up” will take you running around Beebe Lake in the morning while the tranquil “Settle” will glide you to sleep at night. Beacon’s best songs cannot match their earlier Tourist History counterparts in terms of energy or instant appeal, but Beacon’s expansive hooks, spearheaded by lead singer Alex Trimble, result in a more constant, settled feel, rid of the teenage angst that permeates the group’s earlier work. With sweeping momentum-gaining choruses straight out of The Killers post-Hot Fuss playbook, “Next Year” and the album’s lead single “Sleep Alone” display Trimble channeling his inner-Brandon Flowers to produce a vast sound unknown to past TDCC sounds.
Pairing Trimble’s crooning with an equally delicate female vocalist in the form of London’s Valentina is an excellent decision that promotes “The World is Watching” from forgettable to worth remembering. Aging brings about the more prevalent role of women into the lives of young men. Handing the reins to an outside female singer is a further sign that Trimble and Co. are making the transition from oldest adolescence to young 20-something adulthood.
Where TDCC successfully blitzed its way through simpler riff lines in the past, “Handshake,” the album’s best song, has several layers, with the trio methodically working through the track, resulting in a heavily synthesized sound teeming with tapered energy.
Beacon is not without its shortcomings. “Sleep Alone” does not live up to lead single status, while the backend of the album includes one too many slow ballads. The album’s title track in particular could do with a shot of Five-Hour Energy. Beacon lacks degrees of ambition in its message as well, with the album rarely addressing themes beyond a little longing for home.
While Beacon might be missing the widespread hits, Two Door Cinema Club has most certainly dodged the dreaded sophomore slump with a top-to-bottom solid record. Beacon is not innovative. The group is not going for profound symbolism or commentary. It’s going for its brand of patented fun, with a lyrical nod to the distances the trio has traveled since first forming back in grammar school. The lyrics might have a hint of glum and gloom, but for most of Beacon, the original, electro-alternative riffs will have your body bopping and your head nodding as you spring about your dorm room, musically intoxicated.