Okay. This is going to be the strangest album review I have ever done. Let me explain how this came together. So, I am in the United States and a friend who is an artist here had just found out that his group’s album had won for “album of the year” courtesy of an esteemed panel of judges assembled by Banks Radio Australia (BRA). In doing my research I then visited BRA’s website and while I am looking up what I came there for this track plays which is to be expected because after all, this is an internet radio site (and a good one at that).
Anyway, I find myself initially tapping my foot to this infectious drum beat that starts this tune and then the vocals come in. They are different. Very different. I go deeper and actually stop what I am doing to listen to this tune. It is riveting to me and it was Thick As Thieves by The Temper Trap, the title track from their third studio album which is also entitled Thick As Thieves. Now, I know the album was released in the Summer of 2016 so I may take some flak for being behind the times but I can handle it. In any event, the album struck me that much that I had to write something about it.
After listening to Thick As Thieves for about 10 times I foray into Alive which is the 6th tune on the 11 track album. Much to my delight this track–which is brilliantly cynical–is really good too; in fact, I like it more than Thick As Thieves but for different reasons. First, I think Jonathon Aherne’s (bass) bass work coupled with Toby Dundas’ (drums) drum patterns are very rhythmic. They really carry the song. Then comes in those vocals again. Lift another curtain and I find out the vocals belong to a Dougy Mandagi. I will come back to Mandagi in a moment but for now to give this group some context, check out the video to Alive:
There are 11 tracks on this record and each is different which is good. The track listing is as follows:
- Thick As Thieves
- So Much Sky
- Fall Together
- Summer’s Almost Gone
- What If I’m Wrong
- Ordinary World
So Much Sky is a cool syncopated tune which features Mandagi singing in a cleaner style which contrasts the more removed and mystical voice he displayed on Thick As Thieves. The track also features some great drum work by Dundas who fits this group like a glove. Burn is up next and it is a right turn from the edgier material on the album. It features a nice melody and again Mandagi employs some different vocal tools to accompany some nice U2esque guitar work by Joseph Greer.
Editor’s Note: The inspiration for So Much Sky was a charity visit to Tanzania by Aherne and Mandagi.
Lost is another opportunity for Mandagi to show off his vocal opulence as his great range is evident. The fifth track on this record–Fall Together–features guest appearances by drummer Rich Cooper and guitarist Justin Parker. This track has more of a pop feel than other songs on this record which shows another side to The Temper Trap. Here again Mandagi excels as a vocalist. Riverina is an interesting track and it continues with a pop theme that really works for this group as much as the edgier songs. Aherne is ever present on this track and in fact he offers excellent bass work throughout this entire album. Additionally, despite no lead riffs being present on this record Greer displays his wonderful melodic playing in Riverina.
Summer’s Almost Gone–the longest track on this album at 5:08–is mellower than most of the other tracks and Mandagi shows on this tune (as he does on others) that his vocal abilities are very compatible with effects. However, what I really like about Mandagi’s abilities on this record is that he is able to disguise his voice so much so that the group sounds as if it has two lead singers. He’s that good.
“Running round in circles
Yeah, we just running round in circles
Staring at a screen
Tying up our laces
And catch the first train to the office
Working the machine
The TV’s reading out the news
You got everything to lose, oh
Yeah, feels so good
So good to be alive
Yeah, feels so good
So good to be alive”
Alive, The Temper Trap
Tombstone is open and free flowing and well sung while the slower What If I’m Wrong features Mandagi effectively utilizing the upper ranges (falsetto) of his voice. It’s a very different sound and it works for this singer. This album ends well with Ordinary World which lets Mandagi end on a high (in fact very high) note.
The sound and production on this record is terrific and that also deserves special mention. I think this group works well together and I am glad I found out about them. They are not too busy in their playing and composition and they compliment one another very well with Mandagi’s voice as the centerpiece. Again, I think Mandagi is an exceptional vocalist; he’s different and dynamic but he is not alone–he has a great band behind him that makes him look and sound good. The musical quid pro quo is fantastic on Thick As Thieves. I also liked the guitar driven writing on this album which vacillates between edgier tracks (Thick As Thieves and Alive) versus more pop-centric selections like Burn. Considering that Greer came onto this record after founding member Lorenzo Sillitto left and he did the job he did on this album, that’s pretty impressive.
This is a very good record and a very good band and again, it was a find and a good one at that. Indeed, sometimes surprises are the best.