17th May 2012
Roughly seven songs into The Temper Trap’s ninety minute set tonight comes a tap on the shoulder. “Have they played ‘Sweet Disposition’ yet, mate? We got in late, and my girlfriend’s worried we’ve missed it.”
These days, the ideal for an ostensibly ‘indie’ band, when backed by plenty of promotional expenditure, is for their debut record to meet with a unanimously positive reception. Back in 2004, Franz Ferdinand saw their self-titled debut meet with universal acclaim – and rightly so – and the hugely-successful first forays of the likes of Vampire Weekend and White Lies in more recent years have very much laid the template that any other fledgling band should be aspiring to.
What isn’t necessarily as desirable an outcome is having one single so huge and all-encompassing that not only does your album live in its shadow, but it becomes the yardstick by which all future work is compared. This isn’t to say that most young bands wouldn’t kill for a huge, anthemic single that hit the big time – and I’m sure The Temper Trap didn’t mind when it allowed them to play to thousands of people at their own shows and many more times that at festivals – but, you have to wonder, will this band ever escape the shadow of ‘Sweet Disposition’?
I’m not sure whether or not they’re trying to compensate, but of the first eight songs the band play tonight, only one is lifted from their first LP, Conditions. On paper, it might seem like a brave attempt to forge forward, a resounding display of faith in the strength of the new material, but ultimately it’s a little too testing for the audience. One thing I’ve learned from a few years of pretty heavy gig-going is that the only people who get truly excited about the airing of new tracks are the truly hardcore, and whilst I’m sure there are some big Temper Trap fans in the house, the bulk of tonight’s sold-out Ritz crowd seem like casual observers. As much as they might enjoy the occasional preview of next week’s self-titled sophomore album, playing a set dominated by as-yet-unreleased songs is always going to test the limits of the audience’s patience.
Herein lies the problem of not releasing a record in sufficient time to give your fans the chance to hear it and become familiar with the songs. Anyone who was at Reading or Leeds festival in 2009 will know that the main reason Arctic Monkeys’ headline set bombed was because they deemed it sensible to play a slew of tracks from a record that had been out for 4 days – even the hardcore Monkeys fans were probably too pissed to care and more interested in hearing ‘The View from the Afternoon’.
The Temper Trap don’t help themselves tonight by leaving out of the set their biggest non-Disposition hit – ‘Fader’ – and the reaction that the likes of ‘Science of Fear’ and the set-closing ‘Drum Song’ elicit serves only as a reminder of how the show might have panned out, if only the band had paid a little more heed to what their loyal, paying followers wanted to hear. This isn’t to say that The Temper Trap won’t be a good record; what it is to say, however, is that when your audience are totally unacquainted with your new album and react with feverish enthusiasm to your older stuff, maybe it’s best to give the people what they want.
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