Review Summary: Initially underwhelming, and ultimately a step sideways from the much-loved Conditions, The Temper Trap still has enough tricks up its sleeve.
The Temper Trap was a name on the lips of every indie/alternative lover, plus many listeners from various other styles of music, in the year of 2009. With the release of the lovable pop ballad, "Sweet Disposition", this henceforth relatively unknown four-piece made the world their oyster. But skeptics who suspected that the band were a one-trick pony were proved wrong with the release of Conditions
- which, while admittedly taking a few listens to sink in, revealed that the band were clever, talented, and absolutely averse to their listeners thinking that "Sweet Disposition" was the height of their career. Fast-forward three years, and despite a musical shift in direction and the addition of a fifth member, the determination to excel and experiment has only grown stronger in the minds of The Temper Trap.
Okay, it has to be admitted, The Temper Trap's self-titled release suffers from the exact same "slow grower" syndrome as Conditions
, except in a much, much greater capacity. While Conditions
had its three lovable, catchy singles to drag the listener in and hold their attention while the other seven songs could slowly gain more and more recognisability (and interest), The Temper Trap
contains about six minutes of music that is memorable from the first listen, with all the rest taking its sweet time to become embedded in the listener's brain. The upshot of this is that music that grows slowly always ends up being the best, and this album is no exception - the downside being that on first listen, the album is horrible. It is dull and unmemorable and it is perfectly understandable for fans to be angry that the album's only memorable songs are the ones that were released prior -"Need Your Love", "Trembling Hands", and, after some time, "Rabbit Hole". With that being said, on the second or third listen, the album slowly reveals itself as a dark, brooding, abstract, electronically-heavy but nonetheless brilliant album with enough tricks up its sleeve to hold its own against Conditions
, if not exactly taking a step up from it.
Take, for example, the more even balance between vocals and instrumentation, or the major lack of loud guitars, or the noticable prominence of electronics. These are all evidence of The Temper Trap's willingness to experiment, to sidestep expectations, and to not deliver what is expected. Take a moment to imagine just how easy it would have been for the band to create another Conditions
to cash in on the success of the first - the same soaring guitars, catchy choruses and gang vocals approach. Instead we have this album, with its avoidal of excessive choruses and usage of guitars as more of a backdrop to the dark picture it paints. It truly is an unexpected, but most welcome, surprise, and when looked at more specifically, it definitely pays off as the majority of tracks to be found here are fantastic.
Now, every album has an unavoidable slip, as unfortunately the perfect album has yet to be made - yet thankfully, The Temper Trap
's is a small one that is more than made up for. Our slip occurs just after halfway through the album - having heard five brilliant tracks to start off with, and another not-so-bad one, we get "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Never Again" - both duds, that, strangely, both feature their own brief but unmistakable moment of greatness (a bridge and a verse, respectively). These are followed by "Dreams", which is a slight improvement but still features a chorus that is much too repetitive to be enjoyed. As mentioned above, this three-track slip is more than made up for with what is simply one of the most fantastic songs ever conceived, by the name of "Rabbit Hole". This gem leads into two more brilliant tracks (or five if you acquire the deluxe edition), more than compensating for the midway slump.
So obviously, this album isn't for everyone. Any listener who goes in expecting another Conditions
will be severely disappointed - as, in fact, will anyone who goes in with any expectations at all, as this album is specifically tailored to defy expectations. It sounds rather cliché, but the impact this album makes once you open your mind to it is incredible. It literally jumps from dull to fantastic in a surprisingly short amount of time. With that in mind, listen through the album one more time, preferably with the lyrics booklet, and you'll get it.