Grade: 82% (B-)
Conditions (2009) is the first studio album from the Australian indie-rock group, The Temper Trap, coming three years after their self titled EP. The first track, “Love Lost”, breaks in the album slowly but surely as it gains momentum throughout the song. Repeating chords with Mandagi’s voice dominating the song can be used to describe almost every track, “Love Lost” being no exception. The synth work plays nicely against the guitar work but it is clear that the album was based around Mandagi’s voice.
If you find the third track on the album, “Sweet Disposition”, somewhat familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen the indie film (500) Days of Summer. It’s in there. Twice. While this may be an attempt to get every sixteen year-girl requesting the track on their local hit radio station, it is still a good song. The lyrics seem fitting for the aforementioned high school girls: “A moment, a love, a dream, aloud, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs.”
This is not a light and poppy record by any means. Track names such as “Love Lost”, “Fools”, and “Science of Fear” convey this perfectly. Besides perhaps “Sweet Disposition”, there are no songs that make you want to sing along. Which is probably a good thing considering the dark lyrics.
“Soldier On”, the fifth track on the album is perhaps the best representation of the album as a whole, and definitely the standout track. It starts out slowly with guitar and Mandagi’s piercing voice. Soon after comes the deep underlying base that continues throughout. Far from cheerful, Mandagi sings about the downsides of relationships, warning “keep your heart close to the ground”. With two minutes to go, the song completely transforms into an epic power ballad including a guitar slaying solo by Lorenzo Sillitto.
Conditions is a pretty good debut album, although the band definitely showed signs of where they can improve. It would be nice to see a track or two with a different style to it as most of the songs on the record are very similar. Some acoustic work would definitely do them some good, as it would add some desperately needed diversity to the record.
The final song on the album, appropriately titled “Drum Song”, is a daring conclusion. It is an instrumental that starts out with pounding drums leading into echoing guitar. Although the absence of Mandagi’s piercing voice is felt from the start, it does not make the song any worse. Like the entire album, the final track is the obvious of subtle. The track gave the rest of the band a chance to show that they aren’t completely dependent on Mandagi’s voice.
The Temper Trap’s second album is due out early to mid 2012.