Temples' 'Hot Motion' Is an Uninspiring Emulation of Their Existing Sound
Hot Motion sees Temples play it safe as they sacrifice musical development for disappointing consistency.
27 September 2019
Temples are a band clearly in love with early psychedelic rock. Their 2014 debut album Sun Structures placed them firmly in the big leagues of neo-psychedelia as they emulated the trippy tones of late-Beatles, early-Pink Floyd, the Doors, and Grateful Dead. Later matched by their 2017, and slightly more synth-focussed, album Volcano, Temples have demonstrated they know how to lean into nostalgia and replicate the 1960s psychedelic sound in a revamped, pop-oriented style. Their latest album Hot Motion follows suit.
Despite a change in record label and the loss of a drummer, the Kettering, England three-piece group have crafted an album that neatly fits with their previous discography. So much so, that each song on Hot Motion could have been released on their previous albums. While consistency is no bad thing in itself, one can't help but think Temples have played it too safe this time around, sacrificing musical expansion for an album of meek ideas and tame implementations.
The first half the album is certainly its strongest. "You're Either on Something" is one of the more immediately engaging tracks of the album, with a sing-a-long vocal melody in its chorus and amusingly not-so-subtle allusions to drug culture. "You're either on something / Or you're onto something." Similarly, the whimsical lyrics on "Holy Horses" well compliments its restrained sound, before it launches into a driving mesh of chunky, distorted guitar riffs. "The Howl" offers a much-required change of pace, as persistent snare rolls, driving guitar riff, and vague lyricism function as a call-to-arms for some unnamed event. Closing track "Monuments" leaves the album on a high as a catchy vocal melody carries the verse, and a natural ebb and flow lend the song an engagingness.
Unfortunately, taken as a whole, the album provides few standout features. Riffs and melodies feel uninspired as they push songs along but provide little to hang on to. Listeners won't find themselves humming any catchy riffs by the end of the album, or eager to return to a particular high point. Timbres across the album, too, feel unexceptional as standard distorted guitar tones dominate the sound. Title-track "Hot Motion" encapsulates this. Although the longest song of the album, it is the least interesting. Hitting all of the aspects of an indie rock track – typical arpeggiated warm electric guitar chords, standard structural rhythm, and a pleasant but somewhat bland chorus – it fits the bill without trying to push the bar. Tinged with elements of psych rock, it makes fantastic background indie music but is largely immemorable.
Temples should be commended, however, on their arrangements and production. Throughout Hot Motion, the drums give the songs a punchy drive as James Bagshaw's vocals sit comfortably above a thick mix, and guitars and synths dip in and out at opportune moments to keep songs lively. Although, this is perhaps unsurprising for a band who self-produced and mixed their first two albums.
For a group with such a promising debut album, Temples should be chasing new musical avenues rather than emulating their existing discography. Hot Motion feels like a safe bet for a band too at ease with their music. If their music is to remain fresh, Temples must develop or expand their approach to songwriting.