The Temper Trap

One should never underestimate the power of a catchy song. It’s an ideal that’s elevated many a lesser song to “classic”, and it seems to be paramount these days to radio success. However, if a general attempt is made to force a track to be catchy, we end up with songs that sound shallow – or worse, “cheap”. I have heard many a song where far too much weight is put in a simple melody or specific lyrical tumble, with the result being a song without any real heart. Temper Trap are a band that have mastered the hook, but at the same time have brought an incredible amount of heart and honesty with them. The result is an album full of earworms that dares you to stop replaying the songs over and over.

This is partly because Temper Trap just seem to have so darned much on their minds, from the politically fueled “London’s Burning” (a song inspired by the recent London riots, which I stirred up quite a hubbub over) to the deeply personal “Dreams”. What’s that I hear you say? A pop-rock album with a message? How novel!

Well, almost. For as much earnestness and thought Temper Trap bring to the table, there isn’t a lot of cohesion. The result is that The Temper Trap’s self-titled release is an album whose songs are captivating, hooks are strong and lyrics memorable, but which doesn’t totally gel as a whole, finished product. The coherency is there with sound, totally, but tonally something is just a tad off. This is a problem though that only really becomes apparent after multiple listening and (I hope I’m not being too presumptuous) retentive excavation into The Temper Trap, though, and it’s fair to say the album’s biggest problems are thematic. If that doesn’t bother you, though… The Temper Trap is pretty damned great.

The Temper Trap are a band who look like they’re aiming to write “intelligent” rock/pop music. Not necessarily in terms of awkward or clandestine lyrics, but structurally. It’s obvious that an incredible amount of thought is put into the record – even the songs that don’t really work are noble efforts. The songs mostly follow a pretty concrete, standard formula – however, the band know just when the perfect time is to up the ante, or scale the song back. The songs layer themselves over time in such a way that the build is almost unnoticeable – but it’s effect is still very much there. The songs grow into these huge statements, that grants whatever message or sentiment lying in this grand scope. The fact that it’s catchy grabs your attention, and the scale keeps it.

It also helps that early on, the album has a terrific one-two-three-four (that’s a thing, right?) punch. The Temper Trap‘s third, fourth, fifth and sixth tracks are, simply put, terrific. More than that, this short section of the album is the most natural segment of The Temper Trap. It’s the area on the album that feels the most totally consistent, and each of the three songs supports the others in this way. I understand, however, that the album couldn’t really dwell on what was set up by “Trembling Hands”, “The Sea is Calling”, “Miracle” and “This isn’t Happiness” though. For one thing, he latter three of those songs are all quite dark. To continue in that way would have made something of the album that it just isn’t. As is though it’s an odd situation. When you listen to the album all the way through, the strongest part of the album, those four tracks, almost feel like a rut that needs to be clawed out of. To elaborate – the song after “This isn’t Happiness”, “Where do we go from Here?” seems like it’s making up for the dark tone of the previous few songs (baring the lyrics). The result is a song that’s just a bit too cute – a bit too melodic – and a bit too out of place, considering what’s come before.

Again, though, the problems only really arise when you look at the whole and not the pieces. It’s a tricky issue to define, to say the least. The thing is, no matter how you end up feeling about the album conceptually (I think I’ll be trying to arrange my feelings in some kind of sensible order for a while), it’s hard to argue that The Temper Trap doesn’t have some real winners. Wonderful crooning vocals, tightly and terrifically structured songs, intelligent lyrics and some of the best hooks of the year. The Temper Traps début is a strange, fantastic, endearing, flawed but beautiful triumph.


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