Review: Tourist History by Two Door Cinema Club

Rating: 9.5/10

I’m a bit late on reviewing this one.  I’ve been listening to Tourist History since September, so I hope that at least a few of you got some exposure to this Irish band.  The brilliant blog We All Want Someone to Shout For had covered these guys for a while and that writing ultimately pushed me to listen to the band.

Tourist History is rough to critically review because it doesn’t feel particularly different or innovative.  But what makes it stand out is effort, honesty and the most infectious music I’ve heard since Weezer’s Blue Album.

The first thing to accept with Tourist History is the presence of hooks.  Every song has plenty, offering multiple avenues into a track.  Sometimes it’s a particular guitar line (a-la “What You Know”) and other times the vocals carry the show.  In each track, there is something that will catch you on the very first listen and bring you back for more.  This is impressive for any band and especially so for such a young group.

It’s also important to consider the tone of the record.  Two Door Cinema Club manage to walk a fine balance, presenting upbeat music with seemingly personal themes.  This is where the effort and honesty come into play.  It’s clear on every song that the band is working together (at least in performance) to pull each part toward a common whole.  Opening track “Cigarettes in the Theatre” operates with layers of vocals, guitars, bass and drums.  It’s typical out of a rock group, but each part is perfectly presented to give a true sense of forward momentum and overall presence.  The term “swagger” is overused, but it fits here – the cohesive sound truly allows the band to exude confidence.

Honesty is also something much appreciated in Tourist History.  In typical dance-rock, it’s easy to picture a general tale about going dancing, drinking, partying, and the like.  Two Door Cinema Club manage to sneak in some fairly personal details, offering a candid and vulnerable demeanor.  It’s most obvious in “What You Know,” as the vocals emote the phrase “I can tell just what you want / You don’t want to be alone.”  The layer of carefully picked guitar behind these words would make this music feel at home on an emo record if not for the dance rhythm happening in the background.

Of course, there are particular highlights here.  I’ve already mentioned “What You Know,” and it is the true apex of the record.  It manages to pull together the perfect blend of emotive guitar and exposed lyrics on top of brilliant drumming.  This was one of the clear frontrunners for best song of 2010.  Similar praise can be offered to “Something Good Can Work” and “I Can Talk.”  “Something Good” is more optimistic lyrically, and ends up as an enjoyable love-type song.  “I Can Talk” is the most unique song on Tourist History and has more abrasive guitars paired with tighter drumming.

I really appreciate what Two Door Cinema Club has done in their debut record.  Instead of relying only on hooks, they take that musical skill and blend it with rewarding lyrical style and song structure.  Instead of being a forgettable first dance record, Tourist History has staying power.  The songs may be short, but they’re packed with energy and sonic depth.  This record is a real keeper.