Live Review: The Temper Trap / Clock Opera

11th May - Brighton Dome

I was just about to start writing this review, when in the background I hear The Temper Trap's Sweet Disposition singing out the TV, the damn thing is everywhere! But it’s a great tune, it deserves its accolades and lead singer, Dougy Mandagi’s vocals always delivers a chill to the spine.

But firstly let’s go back to the fact that, as part of The Great Escape Festival. Brighton’s showcase music weekend which is to be frank, a bloody nightmare if you’re not a gig lover. The place is overrun with live music fans. Music in the pubs and clubs soon rolls out into the streets. Noise everywhere and for the small cost of the weekend pass it’s bloody brilliant!

We arrived just as support Clock Opera hit the stage hard and with a purpose that delivered a powerful blend of electronic pop reminiscent of early Depeche Mode in some places.

Tunes like Once And For All and Belongings really move you even if you don't know the material. Brilliantly delivered by lead singer Guy Connelly who is engaging as he (what I can best describe as) 'seizures' across the stage with his over zealous leg movements.

The mark of finding a good new band is not always the gig itself, it’s the engagement after. I wanted to find out more. I wanted to own the album. Not because I’d seen them live, but because they managed to write tunes that sound great even when you don’t know them. I left humming Once And For All and I actually didn’t even know the song. But the guys have a good web presence too, which meant once home I could engage with them and ultimately became a fan.

I know that when I listen to the album (currently in the post) I will know some of the tunes because they were memorable enough from the gig itself. Ironically, the last band that this happened to me with was The Temper Trap who Ive watched a few times over the years and have never seen a bad performance, but tonight's however wasn't as exciting as previous gigs.

The band looked nervous. Dougy Mandagi always entertains, but tonight the whole band seemed reserved. Maybe the fact they were showcasing new material from their forthcoming album, maybe they are bored of the audience clapping louder after playing the hits from Conditions, but to be fair, that’s why a lot of people are there. The first album is a masterpiece and as described with Clock Opera, after my first Temper Trap gig, I bought the album and every song jumped off the album as I’d remembered them so well from the gig.

Apart from one, maybe two songs (Trembling Hands and Need Your Love) the new material didn’t seem to offer that previous album experience. The melodies are all there. Some haunting, some anthemic, but very few as catchy as those experienced from the first album. The new material didn’t seem to push Mandagi’s vocals in the same way the first album allowed. Maybe the lyrics came from a darker place, he seemed more linear in his delivery and lyrically the sense of joy that heralded the original material seems to have been replaced with new and uncomfortable angst. However, his voice on the Conditions material proves he’s lost none of his ability but the subtle nuance in his voice didn’t seem to be audible or pushed with the new songs on offer tonight. That may have been intentional, to show a change in musical direction, but it was missed by this fan.

But, by the end of the gig I was not disappointed. The new material not being more of the same should be considered as progress, it’s what every band should want to do. Sadly too many fear the consequences of doing so, which can only end badly. I left with a sense of a band who over time will no doubt be more comfortable with not being remembered as that anthemic advert band they previously held the accolade for. If bands like Radiohead can made regular transitions, The Temper Trap also have the musicality and songwriting to change. A journey few acts can make. The forthcoming ‘difficult’ second album, entitled The Temper Trap (now with additional guitarist and keyboard player Joseph Greer becoming the official fifth member) is set to be released in June and hopefully the material will find its place over time.