The premise is certainly an unlikely one: What if Danzig threw a dance party?"
Well, you've got to give Milwaukee's Temper Temper credit for thinking outside of the box. While countless other indie-rock bands are exhausting the same list of usual-suspect influences -- the Velvet Underground, Gang of Four, Joy Division, the Pixies, etc, etc -- Temper Temper's primary inspiration truly comes out of left field: Glenn Danzig. That's right, Danzig.
The 5'4'' ex-Misfits frontman who, in many ways, epitomized over-the-top, Satanic '80s metal isn't exactly a respected or even familiar figure in the indie-rock community. But by studying the book of Danzig, Temper Temper, an otherwise standard dance-rock band, have managed to come up with a novel sound. Vocalist Patrick Fuller has mastered Danzig's passionate, occasionally confrontational bellow and lyrically he's adopted his trademark fixation with the dark side.
Of course, this is still an indie-rock band we're talking about, so all this darkness is executed in the most stylish way possible. The self-titled album is decorated with photos of the band members in various unsettling states, impaled by a flag pole, lying bloody and bruised on an operating-room table, lurking over a woman passed out on the floor. This is a band with a vision about how they want to market themselves. But unlike Danzig (or even the early '80s post-punk goths that Temper Temper share a visual resemblance with) they aren't serious about their obsession with violence or the occult. The arty, dramatic lighting in those liner photos makes it clear this is just an act.
That's unfortunate, because while there's a certain elicit thrill to listening to musicians with an actual allegiance to the dark side, it's much less exciting hearing a band fake it. And although Temper Temper's songs sound sufficiently sinister on the surface, evoking images of coffins, torture and violent sex (and making liberal use of terms like "terror", "horror", and "grotesque") they ultimately ring hollow. Still, the band isn't striving for authenticity, they just want to come off as badass, and on that level they succeed. Too many indie-rock groups are erroneously faulted for prioritizing style over substance, but in this case "style over substance" is practically written in Temper Temper's mission statement.
Sadly, the band has some kinks in their sound they still need to work out. They spend too much of the album trapped in the same tempo, which makes the recording a bit monotonous. Menacing chainsaw synths and mechanical, stomping drum and bass tease the listener, building up tension that most of these songs can't offer a release from. The songs that do break free of their set tempo and incorporate anthemic choruses ("Terror Tongue and Cheek" and "Heart Like a Fist", in particular) are tremendously satisfying, but are too few and far between.
Thankfully, toward the end of the album, the group begins to explore other sounds with consistently great results. "Bleed For Me Comrade" eschews the current hyper dance-punk sound in favor of a more restrained, late '70s Stones-esque disco-rock. Never underestimate the power of a catchy guitar riff, a simple funk bassline and some understated handclaps. Likewise, "Sexy Little Cuts" is a hybrid of Detroit soul and garage rock, with some frantic, whirling organ. Temper Temper pull off these styles so smoothly that you can't help but hope they experiment more in the future.
So Temper Temper isn't quite the breakthrough record that many close to the Milwaukee music scene predicted it would be, but it's still a tremendously promising debut. If the band can mix up their sound a bit they could really on to something, but overanalyzing a dance-rock album is beyond the point, anyway. This material absolutely kills live, and that's what really matters.