Concert review: the Temper Trap

Australian indie rockers the Temper Trap perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.

VIENNA, Va., April, 6, 2012 — It’s hard to imagine a band with a more laid back stage presence than the Temper Trap. When they are on stage they create something of a calming influence, as they are never hectic or out of sorts. Being from Australia could be one reason for their calm on stage, but it also could just be inherent in who they are.

The Australian band has gotten a fair amount of attention in the U.S. due to their strong first single, “Sweet Disposition,” which predictably closed the night. Over the last two or three years, the song has been everywhere, from commercials to movie trailers to any time a TV show needs to fill sonic space during a climactic moment. It’s an interesting song to end on, because it doesn’t quite hit the proper note of a closing. But it did tie up their set thematically.

The song and its title are indicative not only of the band’s stage performance, but of their entire outlook on music. They might be an easy-going band, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily play songs soft, in the vein of a band revolving around a singer/songwriter.  Instead they provide a different take on English post-punk from the ‘80s. The edge is still there, but it’s dulled a little compared some of their influences.

The Temper Trap plays a sort of modernized version of Joy Division post-punk, if Ian Curtis had been a happy person in the least. Sonically they’re influenced greatly by a lot of the ‘80s post-punk bands. It shows in their mid-tempo songs being enhanced by light and airy guitar work, twisting every so subtly. While they are not quite unique in this, they perform this aspect of their set with great precision.

Where the Temper Trap really set themselves apart from their influences and their peers is with Dougy Mandagi’s vocals. In a concert like this, it’s not always important to focus exactly on what the singer is saying during each of the songs, but instead on the emotion behind the song.

In this regard, Mandagi is able to pull through better than almost anyone else. He has a distinctly high-pitched voice, yet it still manages to boom across the entire club. It has the effect of making anything he says almost irrelevant. He could literally sing the phone book as long as it was in tune, and still manage imbue the set the proper emotion.

This works because lyrically, the Temper Trap isn’t the deepest band, but they ooze with earnestness. This comes through in Madagi’s voice, backed up expertly by the rest of the band. The audience isn’t necessarily concerned with the specific words anyhow.

Of course, that earnestness translates into other aspects of their set. The band will be releasing their anticipated self titled second album in May, which required them to play and promote the songs off the new album. They weren’t quite embarrassed being in this position because one would assume they’re proud of this batch of songs, but they’re also aware the audience didn’t necessarily come to hear those songs.

This essentially sums up the Temper Trap in a live setting. Their calm nature gives way to earnest emotion, consistently feeding the audience during the entire show.

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener. Read more of his work in Riffs at the Washington Times Communities.

 


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Stephen Bradley

Stephen Bradley is an avid music listener and an occasional writer.  He grew up in the Washington DC area and has been embedded in the local music scene for years.  Currently he lives in Vienna, VA.   He enjoys bands that have been broken up for at least a decade.

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