Thursday, 29 October 2009

769 THE TEMPER TRAP, Oxford O2 Academy 2, Saturday 19 September 2009

Well, after a run of old bands, it's now time for a new one! And here we have for general perusal The Temper Trap, a young Australian lot who caught my attention with an MTV2 video for their enchanting "Sweet Disposition" single. This prompted me to hunt down their debut album "Conditions", which revealed a similar merging of delicate, haunting melody and intricate guitar interplay, causing me to describe them on a recent Facebook update as "early U2 snogging with The Kissaway Trail in a snowglobe full of vigorously fornicating otters". So possibly, a 2009 band to get excited about, rather than mildly diverted?

So I headed down on my own, parking up at 8.30. My first time back at the old Zodiac room since the O2 takeover, and little had changed really; a new bar and repositioning for the merch stand, but effectively the same old place, grotty bogs and all! This gig, however, was a sellout and the place was totally heaving; this was an early one and I'd already missed the support!

Took a good viewing spot stage right, and the band arrived promptly at 9 in a swathe of dry ice and obligatory moody backing track. They opened with a salvo of thrillingly noisy jagged guitar strafing, prompting me to think a guitar noise-fest at the home of the likes of Ride was like carrying coals to Newcastle somewhat! However, once into their first actual number, the pounding "Rest", they stamped their own identity into an authoritative and strident set. Like most new bands, their influences are easy and fun to spot; the shimmering guitar atmospherics of the shoegazing crowd, the early U2-like anthemic yet intricate riffery, even a touch of Arcade Fire-esque triumph/tragedy and Americana, particularly in the epic "Down River", with its dusty opening building to a huge crescendo. However, like the potentially great, they've already distilled these influences into something unique and their own, and with high-pitched and handsome young vocalist Dougy Mandaji, they have a singer of haunting, soulful, delicate power.

Indeed, this set was more strident and powerful than on record, always a good sign, and "Sweet Disposition" was stylishly delivered mid-set, a powerful build up before the sweet release of the best chorus of this year, soaring and beautiful.

A triumphant 45 minutes, delivered enthusiastically and heralded rapturously by an extraordinarily amped crowd (for often sedate Oxford), underlined that yes, here is, finally, a 2009 new band to get excited about. I was also happy, afterwards, for my 20-odd years goalkeeping experience, as the set-lists were scrunched up by the roadie and hurled into the crowd. Hey, I can catch, me!

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