Album Review: The Temper Trap, “The Temper Trap” (2012)

From the moment I heard the song, Sweet Disposition in 2009, I knew I’d love The Temper Trap.  The Australian indie-rock band had that perfect combination of lush melodies, alluring vocals, and unforgettable lyrics.  The group, made up of lead singer, Dougy Mandagi, bassist, Jonathan Aherne, Toby Dundas on drums, and guitarists, Lorenzo Sillitto and Joseph Greer, has seen considerable worldwide success since the release of their debut, Conditions (2009).

Their self-titled follow up album is a fairly good offering of pop/rock/indie songs and ballads.

The album begins with the lead single Need Your Love.  I was initially torn on how I felt about the track; the synth-heavy rhythm was something new from the band, and the poppy chorus was less of the smooth, indie-rock sound I’d grown accustomed to from them.  Nonetheless, the track grew on me, and even though the sound is extremely “mainstream”, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.  There’s something undeniably fun about singing along with the catchy chorus, and I can’t really fault the band for writing a song that could also be a radio hit.

London’s Burning 
follows, starting with news clips from the 2011 riots.  This sets the pace for a fast-paced, futuristic sounding song.  Mandagi sings of the city being in turmoil (“Hey, London’s burning/And it doesn’t matter how hard we try/Hey, London’s burning/Everything is nothing, there’s no future in sight”), and the chorus is another catchy one, particularly as the band joins in on a chorus of “Aaahoo!”‘s, interpolating a line from the Warren Zevon’s famous song, Werewolves in London.

My absolute favorite song on the album is the melodic masterpiece, Trembling Hands.  The track opens with a flourish of gorgeous harmonies, energetic drumming and beautiful piano, which plays throughout the mid-tempo ballad.  Mandagi sings with such yearning, particularly during the pleading chorus (“So throw me a line/Somebody out there help me/I’m on my own/I’m on my own”), and the track is easily the best on the album.  Miracle is another ballad, though the orchestration is stripped back, leaving more room for the hushed vocals and sentimental lyrics (“And I may not always believe/But you’re nothing short of a miracle/Clever minds will second guess/But to me, you’re a living miracle…/Something else comes over me/Grace has come to set me free”).  The lyrics here are some of the strongest on the album; the idea of being transformed by the miracle of having a child is so sweet to me.

The Sea is Calling is a slow-paced, quiet ballad, sounding similar to a few of the songs on the band’s debut album.  The same can be said of This Isn’t Happiness; though the drum-heavy beat gives off more of a fast-paced rhythm, I feel as though I’ve already heard this same song on their last album.

Temper Trap Brooklyn 2009

Where Do We Go From Here has a peppy, 80’s sound, calling to mind some of the work on Keane’s Perfect Symmetry album.  The change in musical direction works well, though, especially as it gives the album a break from the ballads.  Never Again continues with the quasi-New Wave sound, and the track, though mostly innocuous filler, is decent enough to listen to.

Pulsating drums open Dreams, another mid-tempo ballad that boasts a memorable, anthem-like chorus (the single repetition of the line, “Where our dreams go, where our dreams we go…we follow” makes the song unforgettable).   Rabbit Hole is the most bare-bones track on the disc, mainly featuring acoustic guitar and Mandangi’s lovely falsetto.  The vengeful lyrics are a bit odd (“Every which way you go they’re gonna hunt you down/Making you believe a lot of sticks and bricks can get you stoned/’Cause anyone who listens is gonna get theirs when the water floods down/Into the rabbit hole”), but when the track picks up with guitar and more drums towards the bridge, it becomes a lot more interesting.

The disc comes to an end with I’m Gonna Wait and Leaving Heartbreak Hotel.  The first of the two is mainly highlighted by its stuttering drum beat.  The chorus is another lyrically simplistic one (“I’m gonna wait/I’m gonna wait/I’m gonna wait/I’m gonna wait for you”), but the repetition works well, once again drilling the chorus into your head.  The album ends on a bit of a dull note; Leaving Heartbreak Hotel sounds just as cheerful as its name suggests.  The single note melody goes nowhere, nor do Mandagi’s dejected delivery.

The Temper Trap’s sophomore effort is mostly good- the stellar tracks on the album really stand out and are songs that I tend to return to fairly often.  Though the rest of the album doesn’t really compare in terms of catchiness, the songs still make up a good listen.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track Listing
1. Need Your Love
2. London’s Burning
3. Trembling Hands
4. The Sea Is Calling
5. Miracle
6. This Isn’t Happiness
7. Where Do We Go From Here
8. Never Again
9. Dreams
10. Rabbit Hole
11. I’m Gonna Wait
12. Leaving Heartbreak Hotel

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vsbc0oR6fE]
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