Friday, 26 March 2010

'Ah, To Be Young...': The Musical Power of Sweet Disposition



Every time some semi attractive swimmer (or blazingly hot one in the case of Stephanie Rice) with unnaturally broad shoulders and size 16 feet wins a gold medal at the Olympics, the director of the telecast decides to play the same song over and over again. Unnecessarily slow motion footage of a fist pump confronts the viewer as the director cuts to commercial. In 2004, that song was every grandma’s favourite pop ditty Born to Try by Delta Goodrem. Four years later it was the nauseatingly overplayed Clocks by Coldplay. If the London Olympics were held today no doubt the Olympic song of the moment would be Sweet Disposition. If that were the case it would be saturated into my subconscious to the point of indoctrination, and I may in fact grow to hate it. Take heed Nine Network, delete this song from your playlists. Don’t make me loath this aural masterpiece.

The Temper Trap, a Melbourne band I have not heard of before, released Sweet Disposition close to 18 months ago. About three months ago I heard it played for the first time in that god awful movie 500 Days of Summer, the song was possibly the only thing redeemable about that entire production. Then, a month later while watching episode 4x02 of Skins: a discreetly topless Kathryn Prescott (bringing a huge grin to my face) and that unmistakable guitar line that commences the song greeted me as the episode started. From that point, the song has enveloped the public consciousness, even appearing as the soundtrack to a Paso Doble routine choreographed by the ‘Bradman of Ballroom’, Jason Gilkison on So You Think You Can Dance Australia a few weeks back.

It has been said by the legendary Skins blogger Heather Hogan that ‘Every Temper Trap song is basically about losing the love of your life, then re-finding her in a way that is infinitely deeper and more satisfying than you ever imagined.’ However, the one thing that ties all these pop culture references together is passion: be it lost, finally found or athletically executed.

The key moment in the song is the transition between the bridge and the first chorus. The bridge represents the building up of tension:

A moment, a love
A dream, a laugh
A kiss, a cry
Our rights, our wrongs
A moment, a love
A dream, a laugh
A moment, a love
A dream, a laugh


And then comes the releasing of that tension where in the first line of the chorus. ‘Just stay there’ acts as a cry of desperation, which can be interpreting in one of two ways. It can be about reaching the end of a relationship, feeling sorrow and realising it was the best time of your life. Although my interpretation is different: the song describes the first time I saw the girl I am in love with, that moment I always talk about, which is like hearing a record for the first time wanting to repeat it endlessly and wishing that moment to be frozen in time forever.

Just as effective as the lyrics, the song’s composition is absolutely wondrous drawing the listener in upon first listen. As Dom Alessio from Mess + Noise describes:

Sweet Disposition is taut but not ephemeral, a lean song devoid of fat. Its considered pacing and rise-and-fall textures are the real strengths here. When the payoff finally comes in the form of the chorus, it explodes like an ethereal bomb, showering the section with shards of echo and delay while Dougy sings in his unnaturally high male voice, “Won’t stop ‘til it’s over.” It’s like he’s speaking directly to that car full of kids who are bulleting across my mind’s landscape.

Ah, to be young is to be high…

And that really speaks for itself: ’Ah,to be young’. To be young is to be in love. To be young is to be caught in a moment where your emotions are uncontrollable. To be young is to be naive yet optimistic. Sweet Disposition really is the first young adult anthem of this decade, and that may well be its greatest strength.

As Aussie viewers are treated to a slow motion replay Stephanie Rice touching the wall in New Delhi during the Commonwealth Games later this year, chances are Sweet Disposition will accomplish the rare feat of being a battle cry in both swimming and ballroom. Perhaps all the song’s contextual passion will be rendered utterly useless and four years from now Sweet Disposition may go the way of Clocks, and act as the audio equivalent of deliberately burning your genitals. However this is unlikely, because the message of ‘Ah, to be young’ is a universal concept. That and Sweet Disposition is about a million times better.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, I actually like this song. I'm going to do some research on the band.

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  2. I love the temper trap!
    sweet disposition and love lost are my fave songs. i did a review of their january gig. and booked for july.

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