In the short time since their last performance in Brighton back in February 2015, Bear’s Den have had what they described as a “conscious untripling” with founding member Joey Haynes leaving the group, released their second album Red Earth & Pouring Rain and embarked on a worldwide tour. Tonight, they returned as worthy headliners at a sold out Brighton Dome with fantastic support from Matthew And The Atlas, and Patrick James.
The rich and sultry sound of Palace has earned them well-deserved recognition in their short life as a band. The friends, consisting of Leo Wyndham (vocals, guitar), Rupert Turner (guitar), Will Dory (bass) and Matt Hodges (drums), have certainly taken their time in producing their first album, and their reasoning for this clearly comes in the form of perfectionism.
Big Box of Chocolates doesn’t give much away about the sound of an upcoming album, and it definitely doesn’t mirror the velvety rich sound I was expecting to come from Hooton Tennis Club’s second album. Scuzzy guitars and unhinged tunes make this album a toast to mid-twenties angst and middle of the line indie.
The Merseyside boys’ creation is a playful narration of their personal lives and the characters within it. Each track brings an eccentric character to life and is filled with effervescence. ‘Bootcut Jimmy the G’ is the first individual to feature on the album and see himself beautifully depicted through tongue-in-cheek lyricism and lo-fi guitar riffs. The album is storytelling at its best – light hearted, gently novel and set to a fuzzy, tune-filled backdrop.
‘Katy-Anne Bellis’ is a perfect example of the Liverpool boys’ ability to illustrate even the simplest of tales into gorgeous four-minute tracks to bob your head to. Written about the lads’ friend who has moved away, and set around begging her to visit at least once, the track brings a sense of nostalgia with its charming guitar riffs and sweet lyrics. The concept is sentimental, but the sound mirrors a genre of alternative rock that was at its pinnacle in 2008, when bands such as Lightspeed Champion and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly dominated the scene. This couples a sense of indie adolescence with a technical maturity seen in the band's catchy and well-structured melodies, a perfect combination for an easy to listen to and joyful album.
‘Meet Me at the Molly Bench’ is another track on the album that clearly reflects the band’s ability to create an appreciable album without overworking themselves. The track encompasses traits from slacker rock-esque bands in its production, and a happy-go-lucky melody suggests that, while these guys are slowly cracking their way into the mainstream industry, they’re not trying too hard. With a percussive bike bell jangling in the back of this track, the enjoyment of making this album can really be felt. According to the foursome, they locked themselves away in Helmsdale, “drank copious amounts of tea, became bird watchers and whiskey tipplers” while recording.
The album ends with a bizarre ode to BBC radio presenter Lauren Laverne in ‘Lauren I’m in Love’; “Lauren sends her love to lift my Monday blues, and now the news / All through the day she keeps me company,” and a fabulously melancholic track ‘Frostbitten in Fen Ditton.’ This wistful half-ballad romantically combines melancholy with optimism. Its capacity to couple disillusionment with romanticism and quiet hope make it the perfect example of this album’s endless charisma.
Big Box of Chocolate is an allegiance to this band’s boyish enthusiasm and magnetic friendship, wittingly using relatable narratives to sell a 90s-esque, slacker rock, loveable 12 track journey through Liverpool and the boys’ personal thoughts and feelings.
Two Door Cinema Club’s latest album, Gameshow, certainly makes for a challenging listen. Although the band have well and truly stepped away from their comfort zone, a move that has been encouraged following their last two albums, their new release is professional yet disorderly. The success of their 2012 release The Beacon has clearly led long term friends and band-mates Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird to a crossroads that has unwittingly manifested itself in the form of 80s synth pop. Whether this works with the legacy Two Door Cinema Club have created in the past is questionable.
The album does not stray shockingly far from their usual sound, maintaining the jittery, foot-tapping electro pop that made them so popular back in 2012. Indeed, 80s nostalgia and disco almost sits adjacent to the atmosphere created with The Beacon, partly explaining the conversion. However, the band appear to have not tackled the change quite as well as other bands who have attempted to incorporate this era into their new releases.
It’s not surprising that the band have refocused their efforts in a different direction considering they have been surrounded by criticism regarding their lack of development and direction in the last two albums. Despite Tourist History and Beacon churning out indie pop hits like 'Someday' and 'Undercover Martyn', there were only so many times the band could recycle their money-making riffs.
'Are We Ready? (Wreck)' is a peppy opener to the album but does little to stand out, followed by their anthem-ready single 'Bad Decisions'. You can certainly tell the band have drawn influences from Bowie and Prince in this falsetto-heavy track. Alex Trimble’s lyrics lightly touch on the issue of the internet and the information overload it has created. It appears as though social commentary is a theme lying discretely behind most tracks on this neo-disco creation. 'Ordinary' focuses on a criticism of the celebrity world and suggests that anonymity is the way forward. It feels almost as though Trimble and the band have decided to illustrate the reasoning and feelings behind their 2012 hiatus in this album, although it seems strange that it has been done to a backdrop of synth pop.
Generally the album lacks personality, however, their 80s influences prove themselves relatively positive through the curved guitar solos in 'Fever' and 'Invincible'. These tracks bring the feel of the album up a little and definitely add some zest but, unfortunately, don’t deliver the hard-hitting indie pop vibes that made the band famous or come close to anything that could be considered a hit.
All in all, it feels as though Two Door Cinema Club have worked hard to create something that reflects the creative crossroads that the group have been on. It is admirable that they have attempted to change direction. The hard work and professionalism is obvious in this album. Unfortunately the sound they have created just doesn’t quite work. While their cliché indie pop was samey and safe, it was also undeniably catchy and kept the band’s legacy alive and well. This album seems inconsistent, their move towards 80s disco had potential, but is not memorable enough and the result is relatively uninteresting.
The atmosphere at The Haunt was already electrifying even before the support group Ratbag took to the stage to produce a rousing and vibrant performance which upped the temperature even more and spoke volumes for their own unique sound. Vita on lead vocals and accordian was visually captivating and soon had the audience in full swing and limbering up for the main event. Although I was not familiar with their songs they proved to not only be the perfect support but a very strong act in their own right.
“We, um, we brought you some stuff so you don’t get bored in here. I made you a new mixtape, I made you a new mixtape, I made you a new mixtape, miiiixxxxxxtape, there’s some stuff on there I really think you’ll like!” Is the immortal opening to DJ Yoda’s Stranger Things themed mixtape and live set. This basically told everyone at Concorde 2 all we needed to know about the live set he is about to thrown down. But let’s rewind an hour or so before we delve into the evening’s main event.
Sunday night is an odd one for a gig. If you’ve had a busy weekend all you really want to do is stay in and watch Marseille vs. FC Nantes on TV. But when the line-up is strong, you don’t mind missing a game, that on paper, will be one way traffic for Marseille, so with a happy heart at making the right decision, and a warm jacket on, I embarked for the Green Door Store for Kanzi’s new Sketches, Early Summer EP launch night.
Articles by Anna Claxton
Articles by Annie Roberts