[14 February 2014]
Does everyone remember Wolfmother? The Zeppelin worshiping Aussies that released two pretty solid albums and found Guitar Hero fame? They were a band that rejected modern musical ideals (outside of production work) and dedicated themselves to making albums that seemed to have time warped its way from the ‘70s. If you want to get a proper idea of what UK outfit Temples is all about just replace “Zeppelin” with “The Zombies” and you’ll have a pretty good picture of their sound.
Temples have been dropping songs since 2012 like the trippy “Shelter Song” which sounded like Django Django transported to the late 1960s. The follow up single in 2013, “Colours to Life” was even better; a lush and vivid track based around mesmerizing guitar work and a sweeping chorus. Things looked promising for their debut Sun Structures. Sadly both “Shelter Song” and “Colours to Life” outline that Temples have a very small comfort zone to work in. Throughout Sun Structures Temples obsess over emulating their idols and many songs go by without a hint of originality.
There have been many bands before them that have crafted albums while spinning psychedelic pop records in the background, but each one added a unique twist on Sgt. Pepper fantasies. Of Montreal‘s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? was tweaked out insanity based around Kevin Barn’s strange visions, Animal Collective mashed their own ideas of warped pop and electronic on Strawberry Jam, and of course the Flaming Lips’ sound was dominated by Wayne Coyne’s strange positivity. Temples, meanwhile, reflect the recent Red Hot Chili Pepper’s spoof “Abracadabralifornia”, an exact replica of the sound they adore, unfortunately without any signs of self-realization.
That’s not to say the songs here are bad. Frontman James Edward Bagshaw can write a hell of a melody. The snaking vocal lines of the title track work fantastically with the fuzz filled guitars and Bagshaw pulls of a seductive turn on “The Guesser” aided by an organ backing his singing in the chorus. “Sand Dance” might be the only song here that plays outside of Temples’ well-defined boundaries. This is one of the few times that the guitars really kick ass which is a shame as hints and peaks of Bagshaw’s guitar prowess show up here and there. Album closer “Fragment’s Light” also toys with a few more modern ideas with Fleet Foxes like vocals combined with a pastoral background.
Still Sun Structures never evolves beyond pastiche. The goofy “The Golden Throne” can’t tell if it wants to be taken seriously or be the background music for a Scooby Doo episode and the following track “Keep in the Dark” is a plodding piece that never picks up enough steam to become interesting. The songs here also have a tendency to become indistinguishable on repeat listens. But these faults can be ignored if the listener is in desperate need of classic psychedelia. The base problem is that Temples’ narrow sonic pallet holds them back from being exciting rather than just being good. For now they’re a fun, talented, and faceless rock band.