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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

"Sweet Disposition" and the innocence of young love

The Temper Trap's indie anthem soundtracks a nostalgia-driven afternoon walk in the aftermath of classes restarting.

Following the end of my last class on the first day of my final undergraduate semester, I found myself in the mood for some 2000s indie rock as I went for a walk — more specifically, a pair of albums from 2009. Subconsciously, I must have had the desire to look back on a simpler time in my life before I dive headfirst into my classes for one last time at Cal. I began with French band Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, an album I discussed early on in this project through its lead single, "1901." After a bit of autoplay and some brainstorming, I landed on the second record: Conditions, by the Temper Trap, who formed in Melbourne, Australia before moving to London.

Like Phoenix, the Temper Trap had little success in the United States before 2009, but one song sprung them into the American public eye. Whereas Phoenix had "1901" as its breakthrough lead single, the Temper Trap had "Sweet Disposition," a song which really caught on after its use in the soundtrack of the movie 500 Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The song definitely fits the film through its uplifting sound and depiction of youthful love, which we ought to embrace while it lasts.

I've heard "Sweet Disposition" all sorts of places within the last decade, from rock climbing gyms to restaurants, and I never seem to get tired of hearing it. I think that feeling comes from a combination of its overall positivity and the distinctive elements of its sonic profile, both of which begin with Lorenzo Sillitto's opening guitar riff. It's just a four-note riff, but the delay effect applied to it gives it so much character. The figure is also firmly in the low to mid-range of Sillitto's guitar, allowing it to serve as a bass from which the track can largely build up. This building up soon occurs courtesy of lead singer Dougy Mandagi's soaring falsetto, one of the most unique voices in the indie scene. His voice is so incredibly clean, and I love his volume and tone control, which is particularly apparent to me between the third and fourth lines, from the forward "Oh, reckless abandon" to the delicate "Like no one's watching you." It's also over these lyrics that Sillitto reaches into a higher part of his guitar's range, helping to open up the track.

The pre-chorus is the section that intrigues me the most. Thanks in no small part to its house remix treatment by Axwell and Dirty South (see the postscript at article's end for more information on that), its concise lyrics are permanently embedded in my mind: "A moment, a love / A dream, a laugh / A kiss, a cry / Our rights, our wrongs." The lightning round of feelings and reactions strikes me as a reference to the unstable, yet benign emotions of our youth. There's a palpable innocence to it all, especially in retrospect, that makes the run-through so memorable from a lyrical standpoint. The innocence continues into the chorus, as Mandagi sings of blood "so young, it runs." I love that characterization of youth through literal young blood, because in describing how it flows through us it ascribes life to a force that resides within us all. The universality of this force makes its flowing as well as its dissipation more approachable and easier to celebrate while it lasts... as well as more nostalgic for us all to reflect upon it.

As my own youth slips away and I venture into life beyond college, "Sweet Disposition" serves as a reminder of the innocence I once had when it came to love and life. I take solace in remembering that this loss of innocence is universal, while I immerse myself in the song through thinking about all the other things I enjoy about it.


Postscript — remix: As I promised, here's the Axwell and Dirty South remix of "Sweet Disposition," which turns the original on its head by transforming it into a minor-key romp. This was one of the first tracks that really got me into house, which definitely both deepens and complicates my relationship to its lyrics — especially considering how the remix places the chorus before the heavily repeated pre-chorus.


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