This week, Aussie indie-rock band The Temper Trap released their self-titled sophomore release, a follow-up to their breakthrough debut record Conditions. On the first listen, I have to say I was a little confused. By the second listen, frankly, I was bored.
A sophomore album always carries a bit of risk, especially if your first record was huge. Even more risky is to make your sophomore release a self-titled work, because when you do that, it implies that the music on the record is a statement of identity, a definition of who you are as a band or artist. If that is the case with this album, then The Temper Trap is basically telling us they want to be a mediocre band that prefers obscurity to worldwide fame.
I hate to be that harsh; I really do. But the fact is that The Temper Trap really set the bar high with Conditions—and if you’ve ever heard them live, you know that Conditions itself didn’t even do justice to what they’re capable of. And even though they’re a great band, The Temper Trap is still relatively new—most people are only familiar with one song, “Sweet Disposition,” their only real hit so far.
In that situation, the next record needed to have at least one song that could carry them past “Sweet Disposition”—and I’m sad to say, this one doesn’t. It’s not that the songs are all bad—it’s that they just sort of sit there. Listening to this record, I don’t feel any sense of momentum at all. And that scares me, because it really puts The Temper Trap in danger of joining the un-coveted list of “one-hit wonders.”
Now, I suppose from a certain standpoint, The Temper Trap (the album, not the band) could be viewed as a self-contained work, a collective, reflective artistic statement that needs to be heard all together to be appreciated. But that’s the kind of album a band makes several albums in, after they’ve really established their audience. It’s not what you put out as a sophomore album when your band is still trying to build an audience. I guess I just feel like this record, if it should even have been made, is coming way too early in the band’s discography. And again—this is self-titled. I really have to question whether this collection is how the band wanted to define itself.
One track in the middle of the record seems eerily appropriate: “Where Do We Go From Here?”
ALBUM RATING: 2 Stars (out of five)