The Temper Trap in 2016 is a consolidation of what made the band matter to people in the first place. The title Thick As Thieves seemed a natural choice. Anthemic, direct, up, emotive music, typified by the first three songs that came: ‘So Much Sky’, ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ and ‘Burn’. “Those were ones that were very much built around guitars,” says drummer Toby Dundas. “And that was something that we wanted to do: for it to very much be a guitar record. It doesn’t mean it can’t have other stuff – the first record had lots of other stuff bubbling away underneath – but at the heart of it, if you strip everything away, that’s the vibe.”
It is a spirit that characterises the whole album: from the first thud of its heartbeat kick drum, opener ‘Thick As Thieves’ feels like it is a big chorus waiting to explode out of a box, and when that chorus does come – with its talk of “making noise and shouting” – this feels like a band who have discovered, or maybe re-discovered, who they truly are. The echoing, direct guitar lines and rumbling rhythm section of ‘Burn’, for example, already sound like they should be reverberating around stadiums – and like the work of a band who are unashamed about wanting to connect with as many people as possible.
With the core now a four, for the first time they looked to collaborate outside of the band on songwriting, most notably with Malay (co-writer and producer on Frank Ocean’s seminal Channel Orange record), Justin Parker (best known for his work with Lana Del Rey, as well as Sia and Bat For Lashes), Ben Allen (Bombay Bicycle Club, Animal Collective, Deerhunter) and Pascal Gabriel (Ladyhawke, Goldfrapp).
Positivity washes through the songs, to the extent that there is one song – possibly the most anthemic of all the songs in a very anthemic set – called ‘Alive’ which goes “It feels so good… so good to be alive.” The chorus on ‘Fall Together’, meanwhile, runs, “Raise your voice because the time is now or never/And if we have to fall we’ll fall together.” Telling is the fact that ‘Riverina’ is, Mandagi says, “a song about the power of songs”. He is still most excited simply by “the idea of hearing songs when you’re going through something, and thinking ‘That is exactly what I feel, what I’m going through.’ That is one of the most powerful things.”
Put another way: The Temper Trap could easily have continued knocking out various versions of ‘Sweet Disposition’ if all they cared about was getting bigger and bigger. But they didn’t. They took risks, and followed their hearts. And Thick As Thieves is the sound of a band who have taken risks but have also re-connected with why they fell in love with music in the first place. “I look back very fondly on those times, back at the start,” says Mandagi. “And it feels a bit like that now. And that is really cool.”