An echoing, U2-like guitar part chimes along and a high, Jeff Buckley–like voice croons. This is the opening of “Sweet Disposition,” the breakthrough song by Melbourne, Australia’s Temper Trap. It sounds like romance and youth and, well, some popular stadium-rock bands. Producer Jim Abbiss and the band are quite up-front about what sound they were going for: U2, Coldplay, and Radiohead circa The Bends. This is the sound that got Temper Trap on the soundtrack to last year’s (500) Days of Summer.
But if you go online and look for live performances of “Sweet Disposition,” you’ll see the band try out the song in different styles, and it still sounds pretty good. In one version, Dougy Mandagi, the band’s lead singer and main songwriter, sings in a lower register while the rest of the band plays the song like an acoustic reggae number. They sound as if they’re doing their best to ruin the song, but it’s still pretty. The band gets harder-rocking on songs like “Fader,” but the prettiness is still there. Mandagi, a shy Indonesian guy, can’t help sounding sweet and sensitive, whether he’s doing the Jeff Buckley thing or singing in a lower register. When his gregarious Australian bandmates chip in with “woo-ooh” backing vocals, things only get sweeter. And the songs themselves are always a little too simple and straightforward to get menacing, even when they’re called “Science of Fear.”
Still, the Temper Trap has the potential to be a big-time arena act on their own, without so self-consciously trying to sound like one. It will be interesting to see how they grow into the role.
- Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 7 p.m.
- House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego