They still have one good song and countless critics
In an NME feature in October 2009, Australia’s The Temper Trap talked about how worried they were that their debut album ‘Conditions’ was a bit… wet, that their natural edge was chiselled away by producer Jim Abbiss (of ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ fame). “We were a much louder band before this record,” guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto told us.
The sad fact is, the quintet’s debut gave them two-nights-at-the-KOKO success that was beyond anything they ever really deserved, and it wasn’t because of the production techniques. It was the combination of the frequently stunning falsetto warble of singer Dougy Mandagi and, of course, the song ‘Sweet Disposition’. Let’s not be shy about it, it’s a song so good it’s managed to remain untarnished despite the fact it’ll forever be intrinsically linked with multi-activity family holidays. And the only way The Temper Trap can trample notions of being one-hit wonders is with a second album that refuses to be squashed and squeezed into never-ending Coldplay-isms, as the first one was.
A second album full of songs of ‘Sweet Disposition’’s quality would see Sillitto’s wish for the band to be loud again come true. So what’s happened? Well, they’ve talked a lot about their love of pasting ’80s-style synths over everything in the build-up to ‘The Temper Trap’, but apart from the shimmering keyboards of ‘Trembling Hands’ it’s barely noticeable. Inessential electronic sounds flop over songs such as opener ‘Need Your Love’ like unneeded napkins, never forming the spine of anything nor replacing the guitar lines. In doing so they expose a lack of confidence and ideas.
Most of the synth lines are simply less catchy variations of Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes’, which is a template so frequently lifted it barely registers today. The best (worst) example is on ‘London’s Burning’, which is about the London riots and features audio samples straight from the mouth of a looter holding a plasma screen TV. On ‘I’m Gonna Wait’, they strive for ‘Disintegration’-era The Cure throbs but end up sounding like White Lies. The one great moment is the sweeping ‘Trembling Hands’, which is shaped enough like Keane’s equally amazing ‘Bedshaped’ to hold the attention.
But this is a vision-free second album that sounds like a band who have nothing close to ‘Sweet Disposition’ in their arsenal. Instead of bashing critics away with brilliant tunes, they find themselves defining faceless bluster-rock. People will use this music to criticise other music, because unfortunately for Lorenzo Sillitto, the band still haven’t got any louder at all.