The Cooper Temple Clause wants to be your favorite rock ‘n’ roll band. And I mean that band specifically; whatever your favorite band is, the Cooper Temple Clause has almost a Single White Female fixation on it and all of the other popular bands of this generation. From Nirvana and Soundgarden to Oasis and Primal Scream to Radiohead and Coldplay, if you like rock ‘n’ roll, chances are you’re going to recognize something you’ve heard before on the Cooper Temple Clause’s Kick Up the Fire and Let the Flames Break Loose.
Rock music can be fun no matter how derivative something is; the Strokes aren’t the Velvet Underground, but the New York Dolls weren’t the Stones either, and it didn’t hurt them (at least not at first). But some bands that riff too much off a certain kind of music don’t work because they suck (Jet) or because they try too hard to capture the image of a style and end up being kitschy (the Darkness). The Cooper Temple Clause doesn’t have to worry about either; the members are decent players who go for timeless emotion rather than unearned strut.
But Kick up the Fire and Let the Flames Break Loose, the British sextet’s second album, uses too many sources for influence without successfully merging them. Like a poor chef ending up with bits of egg and chunks of flour in his cupcakes, the album’s bits and pieces stick out, unable to create a cohesive whole.
As with every other mainstream band in Britain, Radiohead is the biggest influence here. TCTC displays its love for everything from Pablo Honey (“Blind Pilots”) to Hail to the Thief (“The Same Mistakes”). “Into My Arms” is a beautiful love song that slowly codas into an industrial force of revving engines, tape scratching and banging drums. The ending almost sets the song apart from the far-superior Coldplay songs they are obviously drawing from throughout most of the track.
The real disappointment here is lead singer Ben Gautrey and his lyrics, provided by guitarist Daniel Fisher. Gautrey’s voice calls to mind lead singers who wear leather jackets and have their hair done before video shoots so that it looks like they didn’t wash it. His voice lacks Thom Yorke’s power and Chris Martin’s beauty. Eventually, it’s easy to succumb to career-killing comparisons to the lead singer of the Vines, though TCTC is not nearly as mind-numbing. Even so, the lyrics are a little too cliche-ridden and, when placed next to the superb lyrics of the bands TCTC wants to be associated with, show their seams in almost totally destructive ways.
Ultimately, the album is a disappointment because the members seem to be nice and talented young lads whose band hasn’t yet found its voice. Whether the second album in a band’s career should be more developed is a conversation for another day. I would never compare this album to The Bends, but no one expected OK Computer from the band that gave us Pablo Honey. Give these guys some more time to develop their own voice and a strong vision of where they want to go, and who knows? They’ll never be Radiohead, but they could end up on your wall right next to that strange poster of Yorke coming out of the water with no shirt on. And then they’ll have you right where they want you.