The Temper Trap are the latest in a steady stream of recent Australian imports that has included such varied delights as Howling Bells, Cut Copy, Architecture In Helsinki and, er, Pendulum (ok, scrap that last one). Stylistically though, they share little with any of those bands – The Temper Trap have their sights firmly set on making grand, epic indie rock that wouldn’t be out of place on the world’s biggest stages.
Thankfully, rather than making charmless cock-rock, the band are defined as much by Dougy Mandagi’s sweetly-sung vocal as they are by the swooping strains of guitar that permeate their debut album, Conditions. ‘Sweet Disposition’ is the perfect example, shimmering along with a feel-good vibe that’s impossible to ignore, and it’s a feeling that runs throughout the album. ‘Love Lost’ builds up to a coda that’s palpably bursting with the joy and relief of being given an unexpected second chance, and crucially the band manage to deliver simple sentiment such as “Our love was lost/but now we’ve found it” without coming off as trite. Elsewhere, ‘Rest’ speeds by in a rush of shoegaze guitar, and ‘Fader’ proves instantly catchy with its poppy chorus of driving guitars and “ooh-ooh-ooh”s. Even when the tone takes a slightly darker turn, the tunes are still just as good – ‘Resurrection’ builds up from a quiet funk to something monumentally huge while ‘Science Of Fear’ has a racy, infectious paranoia about it that makes it a stand-out track on an album that’s already packed with great songs.
The album’s mid-section slows things down a little, but the band still pull it off effortlessly. ‘Down River’ has a definite air of Arcade Fire about it (to use that most overused of “epic” band comparisons), while “Soldier On’ transforms from beautiful and melancholy to epic and heartfelt in the blink of an eye. Album-closer ‘Drum Song’, however, shows that The Temper Trap don’t even have to say anything to make affecting music, with a pounding, incessant drumbeat, humming bass and jagged guitars doing the talking.
Overall, Conditions is a fine debut effort, that, if there’s any justice, should see people start to take notice of The Temper Trap. It’s accessible enough for the mainstream (should they care to take notice), but also nuanced enough to please those who would consider themselves more discerning – and most importantly, it’s a record that not only sounds good, it also feels good. Make this the soundtrack to what’s left of your summer.