By Eileen Tilson
Apparently there is more to Australia than Vegemite and AC/DC. Out of Melbourne comes The Temper Trap sailing high above the kangaroos and kuala bears, setting their sites on the U2-like dreams of grandeur. With their debut album, Conditions, music producer Jeff Abbiss, (Artic Monkeys’, Editors, Kasabian) cleverly creates the “wall of sound” that made U2’s Joshua Tree so distinct. The band openly admits that U2 as well as Radiohead and Prince had a particularly strong influence on the album, and they use this to their advantage by digging out their own sound while still remaining a mainstream crowd pleaser.
The music is atmospheric, with pulsating guitars, ear-candy, and hand clapping. The band heavily delays the guitars, creating sweeping crescendos and painting an ethereal environment. It is undeniable to recognize that what immediately grabs the listener’s attention is Dougy Mandagi’s incredibly distinctive voice. Born and raised in Indonesia, Mandagi has a falsetto-like call, that is at first easily confused with a digitally produced instrument. Although not very lyrically strong, he puts emotional emphasis on unexpected parts of each song, increasing its melody and depth.
On “Sweet Dispostion,” Mandagi comes in strong wailing with the same intensity as “With or Without You.” The guitars and his voice chime in together, gathering urgency, until it climaxes into a sound that, although you might not be able to understand what he is singing, can only be described as sheer beauty. “Fader” follows right behind hooting and hollering, and is the most aerobically crowd pleasing on the album. It takes the album to a radio friendly version with its toe-tapping synth-pop, anthemic guitar riffs and plenty of “oooohhh’s.” The second single on the album, “Science of Fear” is perhaps the “darkest” song on this very light album. It comes at you fast and furious, with Mandagi’s voice warning “There’s a science to fear/It plagues my mind/And it keeps us right here.” “Rest” slowly creeps up with slow building guitars, quick percussion and of course Mandagi’s songbird falsetto, which is at its most frayed.
Obviously no one expects a band’s debut album to be their best. Songs like “Resurrection” and “The Drum Song” seem to be more experimental than actual well-thought-out songs, but with a band like The Temper Trap, their growth and ability to channel their influences into their own credible indie with catchy hooks displays their potential as a legitimate contender for Band to Watch 2010.