The year is 1999 and the music industry is as it was ten years prior and subsequent to this moment in time — constantly changing and perpetually difficult to make an impression in. Besides his scintillating voice, all vocalist Dougy Mandagi had at the time was a part-time job at a clothing retailer. Although it was not the most ideal circumstance for an aspiring musician, better days were on the horizon. While busking on the street, Mandagi eventually met bassist Jonathon Aherne; it was a serendipitous run-in that eventually led to another important piece of the puzzle: lead guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto joining the band six years after his bandmates’ initial encounter.
What eventually occurred between Mandagi’s days as a lowly Australian busker in 1999 all the way up to 2005 was the formation of the musically-scribed act we know today as The Temper Trap. Following a debut EP in 2006, the band put out its first full-length effort, Conditions, in 2009. The album was received with a slew of positive reviews from reputable music publications when its debut, hit single “Sweet Disposition” made it on the top 10 of a number of singles charts throughout the world. The indie rockers made a real splash when the track was featured on the soundtrack of Marc Webb’s comedy-drama film 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.
What might have gone overlooked (but ultimately did not) is how complex Conditions, as a whole, really is. Opening track (and third single) “Love Lost” beautifully marries electronic tones with powerful vibrotic guitars, with others stripping down to acoustic and lyrical simplicity (“Down River” and “Fader”) while still maintaining an upbeat mood to the album. Tracks “Soldier On” and “Resurrection,” meanwhile, trudge through the depths of an emotionally abysmal low, but not before reminding its listener that the feeling of the album is, in its purest essence, a very positive and satisfying one.
A solid debut release followed by comprehensive touring throughout the world meant The Temper Trap could ill-afford its eventual follow-up LP to bear any signs of a so-called “sophomore slump.” Admittedly, the band felt a bit of pressure heading into the studio to record its eponymous second album, The Temper Trap. An obvious understanding that producing a hit while maintaining cohesion on a record comes by no fluke, the band decided it needed more time to refine its songs before setting them off into the world. So Mandagi and co. took more time. And it paid off.
The Temper Trap opens with the band’s first single “Need Your Love,” instantly pulling the listener in with catchy, upbeat hooks accompanied by a stellar chorus. Making matters better, the song’s video is a brilliant throwback to the 1984 film Karate Kid. But just as one might expect to be in for an album’s worth of anthem-filled tracks, “London’s Burning” immediately changes the tone, lyrically and musically, to a more serious beat.
Newly added keyboardist Joseph Greer’s first standout moment lies in the beginning of “Trembling Hands,” a solemn song sure to attract attention as an album favourite along with the soothing acoustic tones of “Rabbit Hole.” While the overall mood of the album is more fickle than the weather can be at times, moments of merriment present themselves beautifully on tracks “This Isn’t Happiness” and “Where Do We Go From Here.”
Overall, The Temper Trap’s effort displayed on its self-titled release has solidified the group’s reputation as prominent songwriters. The only question left to ask now is what songs the band decides to include on its setlist; the glory days of playing every song from Conditions might be over, but one can only expect a greater, expansive live experience from The Temper Trap in 2012 and beyond.