Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Temples Build On Sun Structures

Led by singer-guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Warmsley, the Temples are still building a vintage audience since their start in Kettering, Northamptonshire, two years ago. The fans they do have include the likes of Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher, who really want the throwback band to succeed on the United Kingdom scene.

Part of the appeal is that the Temples toss down tunes that capture the mystique of the 1960s with the kick of modern instrumentals and studio mixing techniques. The result often includes some interesting guitar tones and organ interludes, backed by dream-laden and hazy vocals. It will feel immediately familiar and entertaining, even if fewer tracks would have satisfied most people.

"Psychedelic music has always been forward thinking," says Tom Warmsley. "It's so easy to fall into that kind of revival band thing, but our aim is to reference these things and bring something completely new to it."

The way they aim to accomplish this is taking a song like Sun Structures and channeling old imagery and Eastern religion to talk about something contemporary. The composition adds a near-surreal effect to the title track, making it inviting and haunting at the same time. And that's the point.

The band began out of a mutual love for music and mysticism. These are four musicians who share an affection for the writings of Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley. They appreciate that the Byrds were less accessible than the Beatles for a reason. And that Kenneth Anger films really were cinematic manifestations.

Keep In The Dark is one example. The pop bounce presents as a near perfect contrast to the thin but some dizzying lyrics of walking into a forest somewhere, laying your head down on the dirt, and fading off to sleep. It invites something supernatural.

Still, Keep In The Dark, doesn't necessarily have the punch of Shelter Song, which opens the album. It's one of those tracks that some people will wish had more companions on the album. It's one of the few tracks that doesn't necessarily take the band's quest for perfection too seriously. It's a fun and trippy pop take on psychedelic rock.

Shelter Song was originally one of the first singles released by Heavenly Recordings in 2012, but makes for a great opener on an album from their new label, Fat Possum. Had the album contained more tracks like the opener, the Temples might have found less resistance from other reviewers.

Instead, the Temples keep the energy alive on the title track and mildly spooky Golden Throne before slowly transitioning into increasingly soft psych pop ballads like the heavily sweetened and somewhat lethargic Mesmerise. While lighter tracks are part of the overall cosmic journey, too much drifting begins to feel passive and a little less interesting.

Fortunately, there are few more tracks that save the show. A Question Isn't Answered breaks up the bubblegum bubble with some heavier blues influences. Test Of Time and Sand Dance bring in some heaver textures when they are needed most, saving the album from becoming too monotonous.

Sun Structures By The Temples Shines 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

It's difficult to think of the Temples as a throwback band because they're clearly working to move beyond that moniker. At the same time, you have to wonder about their psych pop and passive leanings, when even the most modest levels of action seem to suit them so well. What's the difference? One direction will ultimately feel like a show whereas the other feels permanent.

You can find Sun Structures on Amazon or download the album from iTunes. The vinyl edition can be found at Barnes & Noble. The band is currently on tour in the United Kingdom and Europe, with plans to land in the United States by way of Vancouver in April. Find their full schedule on Facebook.
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