Remember Live? That covertly Christian band that cashed in after Kurt Cobain made anyone with angst and scratchy vocals a millionaire. Ok, so you’re visualizing them now, right? Four angry guys with rather tragic facial hair trying to look super tough, but somewhere deep down inside, they’re really hurting (probably because they’re from York, Pennsylvania. I’d be depressed if I was from there too). By now, you should already have that “Dolphin’s Cry” song stuck in your head. It’s going to be there for, like, a week. Sorry. Now think what Live would sound like if they hit it big a dozen years after their 1992 breakthrough Mental Jewelry. So instead of a world where sensitive boys in cardigans and flannel shirts ruled the world, Live came of age when sensitive boys wearing blazers, skinny ties, and tight pants ruled the world.
And there you have Temper Temper.
Temper Temper tries very hard to carve their own little niche in the current crop of new wave revivalists with mixed results. It’s very admirable of them to strive to be something other than carbon copies of the Killers, of which one is more than enough. Temper Temper’s take on post-punk is a little darker and a little more sexual than the other neo-new wavers and this works to their advantage when they aren’t pushing it on the listener. Songs like album opener “Trust
Me” or “Sexy Little Cuts” are fun, simple dance numbers that aim at being nothing more. But that’s where the subtlety ends and Temper Temper’s desire to be overtly sexual and dark overtakes the album. What results is songs like “Loaded Life,” which boasts the lyric “Learning how to breathe in a choke hold / Cut off my air.” Lyrics like this, as well as many others on this record, sound like they were ripped from the diary of a pseudo-goth teenager who buys all of her clothes at Hot Topic.
Temper Temper’s proclivity towards brooding and darkness comes to a head in album closer “Cheap Little Target.” It’s long and boring and ends the album on a definite low note. But if Temper Temper and “Cheap Little Target” teach us anything, it’s this: unless your keyboardist’s name is Ray Manzarek, never, ever, ever let him do an organ solo. The press release says the keyboardist’s name is, in fact, not Ray Manzarek. Lesson learned.
There’s something that I’ve never understood about bands like Temper Temper. What would possess them to include a lyric sheet with their album? I’ve always found that when your lyrics are as awful as Temper Temper’s, it’s better to just leave the lyric sheet out and make the listener doubt whether they heard your lyrics correctly in the first place. “Wait, did they really just say `You swagger like a cancer‘? What does that even mean? No, that’s not possible. Since I don’t have the benefit of a lyric sheet I must be wrong. My mistake, Temper Temper.” But the inclusion of the lyric sheet compels the listener to say, “Wow, they really did just say `Give me fat things / Give me what I like / Give me flat screens, well I like it all.’ It says it right here. That’s unfortunate.”
This album is not all bad. It’s rather harmless, which is exactly what Temper Temper doesn’t want to be. What Temper Temper really needs to understand is that what separates them from their New New Wave brethren is not poor lyrics (the Faint have that market cornered) or darkness and overt sexuality (strangely enough, the
Faint are all over that as well) but rather lead singer Pat Fuller’s vocals. They are soaring and angsty and fit in better with today’s post-grunge rockers, rather than the current wave of post-punk revivalists. They over-dramatize the music and if there is one thing Temper Temper doesn’t need (aside from keyboard solos) is more drama. Too bad Temper Temper didn’t form a decade earlier. They would have been the best opening act Live ever had.
The Faint – Danse Macabre
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Chevelle – This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In)