Vibrant and colourful, these Aussies proved that our antipodean friends aren’t all laid-back, beer-swilling ex-pats. But they mostly are to be fair…
Date: May 3, 2010
Venue: Rock City
Trying to list decent bands that have come out of Australia is a long, thankless task. Go on, try it. Take your time. Difficult isn’t it? Granted there’s AC/DC. Yes there’s Jet. Ok there’s the Sleepy Jackson. “Who?”, I hear you inquire. Exactly, not particularly rich pickings is it?
The trouble is, Aussie music has been saturated with soapstars-turned-popstars and turgid 80s pop bands like Men At ruddy Work.
So thank heavens for The Temper Trap: Australia’s brightest hope. Before them, though, fellow Aussie Sarah Blasko gently warms the crowd with her sultry lounge-soul. Like an antipodean Ellie Goulding, the attractive Sydney-based brunette caresses the packed crowd with her sleepy avant-folk and double bass-led jazz. Maybe it’s her kookiness, maybe it’s the dream-like tranquility of her music, but she appears to have won the crowd over whatever.
From Sydney to Melbourne, then, as a chant of “Temper Trap, Temper Trap” ushers in our primary concerns. The fact that this gig is a sell-out goes some way to highlight just how far this band have come in 12 months.
Last May, at Nottingham’s Dot-to-Dot festival, The Temper Trap were just beginning to cause ripples in the ocean of indiedom, but were scheduled for a late afternoon slot at the tiny Bodega Social.
Now, almost a year later, they cannon out gallant, swelling pop songs with all the bravado and confidence of a super group comprised of U2 and Coldplay, and Rock City simply isn’t a big enough arena for them.
In fact those two reference points aren’t just grandiloquent remarks. The Temper Trap’s haughty, glacial guitar chords and rhythmic bounce could’ve come directly from Chris Martin’s vast cerebrum, while they employ the same echoing histrionics as anything heard on U2’s ‘The Joshua Tree’ album, but without the righteous bombast of Bono spoiling matters.
When it comes to frontmen, Dougie Mandagi’s charmingly cooed falsetto is as clear as crystal. Not as cloying as Jake Shears’ high-pitched squeal, and not as crotch-grippingly silly as the Bee Gees’ wail, but it’s uniquely wonderful, and best heard on the beatific acapella number, Soldier On.
But typically it’s Sweet Disposition that gets the biggest cheer from the predominantly young audience. You may not know the song by its title, but unless you’ve been living on one of Saturn’s moons for the last nine months, you’ll have heard it on countless TV ads and been told that it’s the greatest song “ev-va” by sycophantic Radio One DJs.
It is, of course, wonderful, with its building verse, wondrous vocals and marching cadence. Fear of Science, too, which closes the set, is a joyous romp of Bloc Party-like defiance and luster.
Surprisingly, though, it’s the instrumental album-closer Drum Song that impresses the most; its wide-eyed exuberance fleshed out to great effect. Unsurprisingly for a song entitled Drum Song, it’s the drums that steal the show, particularly when water is poured onto the additional drum-kit before being pummeled hard by Mandagi, creating a colourful explosion of water and light with every thump.
Grinning bullishly, and expressing a look of pride upon his face, Mandagi declares that it’s “rare for a crowd to out-do the band. But tonight, Nottingham, you have”.
He may say that to all his crowds, but it seems like a genuine and appreciative statement.
To say that they are the “new wizards of Oz” would be cliched and lazy of your reviewer, yet so gravitating is their music, and so powerful their appeal, a superfluous statement such as that would not feel overcooked in this context.