The Temper Trap, ‘The Temper Trap’ – Album Review
On a Saturday in Brooklyn, a music writer was listening to, rather loudly, the new self-titled album by the Temper Trap. Against his best pretensions, he couldn’t help but begin to dig it. And his roommates, too: “This is a pretty good album to review!” one enthused.
“But it’s so cheesy!” scorned the writer.
“But how many of the best moments of your life were really cheesy?” asked the roomie.
“All of them,” the writer replied.
While not one of the best moments of the writer’s life, the Australian band's sophomore album is indeed rather listenable, at least at its peak points. While the Trap aspire to share an arena with U2 and Meatloaf, the Melbourne quintet are not yet the legends they wish to sound like, though they do have a few fleeting moments of immortality.
The most immediate candidate for foreverhood is the soaring opener ‘I Need Your Love,’ which re-establishes the Temper Trap propensity to tiptoe right to the line of triteness without, too often, going over. That song title, and its accompanying chorus, are as well-trod as a lyrical path can get, but despite any haughty claims of their sound being hackneyed, the track -- with its 1988 synths and 1998 vocals (these are, of course, important years for U2) -- inspires a fumble of avian descriptors: The chorus takes flight and Dougy Mandagi’s vocals soar. While the forthright catchiness is somewhat equivalent to a mama bird's affectionate regurgitation, a little pre-digested pop has never hurt anyone -- here it even helps.
Being so unabashedly anthemic, the Temper Trap are the stuff of ready-made epic. The worst (best?) offender is the cap-and-gown grinder of ‘Dreams,’ with that swaying middle school graduation ready proclamation of "We don’t want to walk alone forever / We don’t want to live without each other in the end." It's cringe-worthy stuff for the skinny jeans and plaid set, but will be catnip to guidance counselors, gym teachers and marketing executives. A similar uber-relatable catch-all catchiness animates ‘This Isn’t Happiness’ -- again with the clever titles -- an anxious ballad most probably sung to Bono.
But it’s not all so 'Joshua Tree." The album’s clearly overweight at 15 songs; you never want the end of a listen to be met with relief. A handful of these tracks should have been left to the cutting room floor. The trio of ‘Want,’ ‘The Trouble With Pain,’ and ‘I’m Gonna Wait’ could have waited a while longer. You can’t waste a note on a good pop record, and this much bloat blunts the Temper Trap’s would-be edge.
With the right self-editing (and marketing), the Temper Trap could be their generation's arena band -- we'll have to wait and see. And keep 'I Need Your Love' on repeat.