Album Review: The Temper Trap

by Gordon Elgart on June 5, 2012

When a band releases a self-titled album after their debut record, I always take it to mean they’re making a statement of intent. They’re saying, “this is what the band’s going to be about. Everything else before was just a warm up.” But when your warm-up album has the gigantic hit single, “Sweet Disposition,” on it, should you really be calling that practice? What if you don’t have a worthy follow-up? With that in mind, does The Temper Trap make a statement? Or is it just the next album?

Push play … ok, double click on the new album and you’re immediately met with prominent synthesizers and a much more forceful lead vocal. The vocals on Conditions had a tight, whispery quality about them, and that’s long gone. Lead singer Dougy Mandagi has been taking vocal lessons, that’s for sure. Immediately, the character of the band is different. The first track, and lead single “Need Your Love,” doesn’t take any time getting right up in your face. And this keeps up with “London’s Burning,” a political anthem with a Clash-y guitar sound throughout.

Finally, things slow down to breathe on “Trembling Hands” and “The Sea Is Calling,” my pick for the best bets on this album to make inroads on the same radio stations that made “Sweet Disposition” so huge. The album’s mid-section stays with this quiet sound until the more aggressive, jagged synths return on “Where Do We Go From Here.” And where they go from there is album filler.  I find making it to the end of the record a bit of a chore. This is a front loaded affair.

It’s clear that The Temper Trap know how to write a good song — there are plenty of them here. The production, though, is a bit of a letdown. It’s done by Tony Hoffer, a big-name mixer and producer, and he gives the whole thing a powerful, bright sound. It would be great were it for a band better suited for this feel. But it’s the quiet moments and sweet dynamics that made the first Temper Trap album such a joy; there’s fewer of those here.  Still, there’s a shortage of good songs in the world, so there’s enough reasons to keep listening to this band.

The Temper Trap is available June 5th from Glassnote Records

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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