Kate Tempest: The Book of Traps and Lessons review – Potent spoken words matched with vibrant music

Poet’s vivid third album is personal and political

The Book of Traps and Lessons
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Artist: Kate Tempest
Genre: Alternative
Label: Fiction/American Recordings

The ghosts of poets that have recorded albums in a gasp of expectation only to suffer anticlimactic shrugs haunt us still. With notable exceptions (Linton Kwesi Johnson being the most obvious), spoken word doesn't often successfully make the transfer from stage to studio.

London poet Kate Tempest’s third album looks set to not only change that but to alter the notions of how potent spoken word can be when it is matched with the right music.

The genesis of The Book of Traps and Lessons began five years ago when Def Jam Records co-founder (and highly regarded producer) Rick Rubin contacted Tempest about collaborating.

Between visits to Rubin’s Malibu-based studios and convention-breaking rewrites, Tempest and her music-writing partner Dan Carey deliver virtually seamless observations on nationality, and what she terms “the wider context of the post-industrialist, hyper-individualistic, capitalist system as we know it…”


There is, inevitably, an equal sense of urgency and solemnity running through the album, be it personal (Firesmoke) or political (Hold your Own), but rarely has spoken word been rendered so vividly and musically vibrant.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture