When Two Door Cinema Club released their debut album Tourist History in 2010, indie-infused synth-pop was seemingly on the rise, following iconic releases like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix in 2009, and MGMT’s 2007 debut Oracular Spectacular. Alongside these, Passion Pit, Bombay Bicycle Club, and The Temper Trap were all emerging in the indie scene, with more groups in that vein set to follow. At the time, it seemed like most of the praise in the indie world was centered around either indie-folk or the already established post-punk revival. In retrospect, reading reviews and commentary from those years, the Two Door Cinema Club, Phoenix, etc. sound was too often scoffed at, acknowledged as catchy but not profound, especially in the US. Looking back now, the profundity of records like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and Tourist History were overlooked, and this is evident by seeing how streamed and recognized these songs are today.
Metacritic’s compiled score of Tourist History puts the record at a 67/100, with magazines like Pitchfork surprisingly not even reviewing the record at all. By our research and input, the compiled score of the record seems a bit low, as listeners have much nicer things to say than the critics did. The 2010 Two Door Cinema Club sound was heavily synth-based, but the guitar playing is pretty impressive too. Songs like Something Good Can Work and I Can Talk feature some incredibly speedy and infectious guitar hooks, a trait too many synth-pop groups usually lack. The bass hum on the verses of I Can Talk, followed by the off-beat, bouncing guitar playing in the pre-chorus, is sheer indie gold. I Can Talk goes just as hard today as it did in 2010, perhaps even more so now, seeing the guitarlessness of much of contemporary indie synth-pop. Post-production aspects of I Can Talk, like panning and guitar layering, come off as even more impressive now when played through nice headphones. It may be old-fashioned to always yearn for guitar, but the simple fact is that it usually helps, and it rarely hurts to wield a six-string, at least in indie.
The poster child track of not only the record but also Two Door Cinema Club's overall discography, What You Know finds itself as one of the most instantly recognizable songs of the entire indie-synth pop genre. Sam Halliday’s danceworthy jangle-pop guitar playing over the chorus screams ‘80s golden age indie rock. The hook is so simple, yet so infectious and equally timeless. The riff is matched by the equally smooth and crisp vocal delivery of Alex Trimble. Fourteen years later, the song remains just as fresh as it was in 2010.
Following What You Know, Eat That Up, It's Good For You takes the energy down a tad, while still putting Sam Halliday’s guitar at the forefront, this time playing more intricate and somber patterns. It’s quite unusual to hear so much intricate guitar work played alongside abundant synth and sound effects. Two Door Cinema Club was one of the few bands to really venture down that road. They mixed the guitar playing of the post-punk-revival rockers like Bloc Party and The Strokes but removed the rough-edged angst. The resulting sound was unique to them, with bands like Phoenix or Bombay Bicycle Club not really venturing down that road, even though their relatively limited physical instrumental input (at least by Two Door Cinema Club standards) was still great, just different. Phoenix's sound had some great guitar hooks for sure, but they were sparse and noticeably farther behind the synths and keys.
Above everything, though, Two Door Cinema Club showed on their debut that they could take a standard pop format and mix the old with the new, creating a sound unique to them, that has since been adored by millions. The vocal beauty of Alex Trimble put forth one of the most pleasing indie voices of the changing decade, cutting through no better than on Undercover Martyn. Trimble showcases the natural groove and momentousness of Irish musicians expertly on this record, while at times still changing it up, delivering more delicate, spacious lyrics over the recognizable Two Door Cinema Club sound. No one quite has a voice like Alex, and his gift at singing is too often underrated, even by us here at Melophobe. At least on his studio-recorded tracks, he was graced with a special voice.
I’ll admit, perhaps the record wasn’t quite as underrated in Europe, but at least as far as we are concerned here in the States, it took some time for a lot of people to really appreciating the record. There are certainly tracks here that are stronger than others, and there are still some people who claim all the songs sound the same, which of course is false although I strangely know what they mean. At the end of the day, though, by our standards, the record is one of the top 200 indie rock albums of all time, even though we seem to be the only publication to believe this. The vocal delivery is great, and the guitar delivery is equally great, while still being a danceable, groovy album much in the style of the crispest ‘80s dance-rock records out there. With the later emergence of bands like Bad Suns, Coin, Hippo Campus, and The Band Camino, the standard they should set for themselves should be Tourist History.