The advent of hip-hop left many musicians wondering if the future was rhythm based; that is, how important would a melody be as dance-hall and "beats" took the place of a well written melody? While not an absolute shift, a good "beat" certainly was all of a sudden the cornerstone of successful pop/radio hits. Of course this wasn't absolute, but it certainly does explain some of the more bland "music" to grace the airwaves in the past ten years simply because of a clever syncopation. Now fast forward to the year 2009 and The Temper Trap stand poised to be a very successful rock act, and despite their prominent placement in a motion picture, it is thanks to their infusion of rhythmic energy into their songwriting. The "beat," you could say, is pretty hot.
Pair that with great songwriting, and you've got a game-winning sound. The Trap turn riffs into exercises in rhythm, referencing the early successes of anthem-creating bands like U2 and Coldplay. Single "Sweet Disposition" really displays quite a bit of this influential noise, the reverberated riff, the driving kick, it all spells out the building blocks of a pop hit. Luckily, the same principles are applied in new and interesting ways all over the record. The album is soaked in intricate guitar writing, parts that keep even the less pumped up tracks interesting and beautiful. "Soldier On," a slowed ballad, has this captivating quality. Funny that they should call themselves "Temper Trap," a combination of words that that literally means an inescapable time-sensitive process.
Let's not forget, even as important as "the beat" can be, instrumental prowess is only one piece of the pop puzzle. The voice of lead singer Dougy Mandagi is versatile, breaking back and forth between a Passion-Pit falsetto and a more traditional chest-voice tenor. This quality takes "Sweet Disposition" to the level of cross-over modern radio hit, but this song isn't what ultimately sets Temper Trap apart. The other varied efforts of the band, particularly "Science Of Fear," takes the formula of pop and twists it more into a Temper Trap construction than a predictable chorus/lyrics setup. "Science Of Fear," like most of the record, thrives on its rhythmic pulse, but I think it is the song that capitalizes the most on it's focus and emphasis.
I would argue against claims that Temper Trap is too lofty or poppy for artistic integrity or innovation. Just because a band shoots for the skies with stadium/radio rock doesn't make them unworthy of praise or merit. What we have here is a debut album that isn't 99% filler, and is completely devoid of pretense. Conditions has a strong selection of successful tracks with a definitive sound and a potential for growth, a cross-section rarely achieved these days by successful acts. I hope this Temper doesn't boil over anytime soon.-joe puglisi