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Album Review: The Temper Trap ‘Thick As Thieves’

The Temper Trap

It’s been four years since the release of their self-titled sophomore album, and in that time The Temper Trap have lost a founding band member, toured the world, and collaborated with many commendable producers on their new sound. With the rockstar status they’ve grown into, you may not recognise them since their last release, but The Temper Trap have infused their undeniable style into their biggest sound yet with their third album ‘Thick As Thieves’.

Opportunity arose when one of the founding members of the Melbourne-born outfit Lorenzo Sillito decided to part ways with the others. Dougy Mandagi (vocalist), Toby Dundas (drummer), Jonathon Aherne (bass), and Joseph Greer (keyboards & guitar) were left to soldier on in the spirit of The Temper Trap and took the opportunity to experiment and push their style. ‘Thick As Thieves’ is The Temper Trap’s conscious progression to a raw, simplified soundscape of the 4-piece.

Exploring beyond their own songwriting, the band collaborated with many exceptional producers on the record, including Malay (Frank Ocean), Justin Parker (Lana Del Ray, Sia), and Ben Allen (Bombay Bicycle Club). ‘Thick As Thieves’ not only features the work of many international artists, but was also produced in many locations across the world. The result is a stadium sized, anthemic album that, whilst simplified, has seen The Temper Trap release some of their best work yet.

As always, the indie-rock icons have put forward an emotive soundscape that can be felt deep within your soul. Opening with the title track, Thick As Thieves, The Temper Trap are carried in by a heavy and almost haunting bass line and steady upbeat drums, contrasting with Mandagi’s floating vocals – it’s the intro to something bigger. In a slightly Western style, the song escalates into a rolling chorus as the lyrics call out, “they’re all thick as thieves!”.

Powering in with a killer drum line and vocal hook, ‘Thick As Thieves’ takes a turn into an open aired singalong in So Much Sky. It’s summery, simple, and outrageously contagious… you can’t help but embrace it. Like all albums you can’t love everything, but Burn kind of resembles a pizza with too much cheese (is that possible?) – you can’t help but take a bite, but it’s so cheesy it makes you feel a little sick.

Mandagi’s slightly distorted vocals complete the pre-chorus as he towers over a simple chord progression and vocal hook. Burn displays The Temper Trap’s most progressive pop style with an enormous vocal hook and although The Temper Trap pull off most things, this track is questionable.

Following Burn is my personal favourite track Lost. Presenting the simplest of recorded drums, ambient, electric guitar, and a heavy bass line, Lost puts Mandagi’s finest skills on display. Last month The Temper Trap sold out The Triffid.  Mandagi stood still centre stage for Lost, delicately delivering the melody in his signature falsetto, “You don’t have to worry, baby/Let’s get lost”.

Despite the directness and predictability of the lyrics, you can’t deny they’re the words you want to hear, and Mandagi delivered all that you’ve ever wanted. He stood still, surrounded by his fellow band members and sang the lyrics from somewhere deep inside, breaking into dance only during the bright, uplifting choruses. Seeing this song live is one of the most musically spiritual moments you can have.

The powerhouse anthem we’ve already come to love, Fall Together, was the lead single off the album. Packed with the most electronic production on ‘Thick As Thieves’, it adds a whole new level to their new found sound. Alive is loaded with positive affirmations and a non-stop soundtrack of thudding bass, drums,and spontaneous synthesisers.

Sounding a little more like The Temper Trap we know, Riverina is a slightly more reserved indie-rock hit. Mandagi explains, “it’s a song about the power of songs… the idea of hearing songs when you’re going through something, and thinking ‘That is exactly what I feel, what I’m going through.’ That is one of the most powerful things”. It enters with a hard-hitting beat, driving electric guitar, and bass. The track is balanced and boasts a vibe similar to Fader from their debut album ‘Conditions’, and even holds a slight nostalgia in the backing vocals.

Summer’s Almost Gone appeals to the lonely souls with drawn out, somber vocals similar to Trembling Hands from their self titled album. Tombstone takes a different vocal approach to the rest of the album with Mandagi playing a more reserved role, almost talking through the verses. Slowing down, What If I’m Wrong is reserved and laid out on a bed of 80’s synths and Mandagi’s falsetto. It’s a humbling tune of self doubt and delicate guitar hooks.

Rounding up the album, The Temper Trap dive into Ordinary World with distortion and drums. “All is quiet down by the old sugar mill/Everything but the wind is oh so still,” rings out as the track settles into a steady pace. Tackling the pre-chorus with vocal gymnastics Mandagi presents The Temper Trap’s greatly loved poetic lyricism. Ordinary World is The Temper Trap’s experimental character in all of it’s glory with instrumental breakdowns drenched in distortion, electric guitar and thick harmonies. It’s gritty and aggressive, and shows just how unpredictable The Temper Trap can be while still remaining true to their signature style.

Although ‘Thick As Thieves’ strips back to a more simplistic approach and ramps up the anthemic factor on 95 per cent of the album, it has delivered a generous serving of all that is The Temper Trap. For long term fans, the album may seem too alien at first listen but it quickly grows on you. A collection so versatile, yet all capable of topping charts as the anthems they are is a masterpiece to be celebrated.

Album Rating: 4

Thick As Thieves ALBUM cover article