If psychedelic rock seems disconnected from the here and now – too much of a hark back to the seventies, or perhaps out of reach half way round the world in Australia in the form of Tame Impala or Pond – Temples may just be your accessible way in.
Signed to Heavenly, a suitable label name for such an awe-inspiring, blissful sound, the quartet released their debut Sun Structures in 2014. Early track ‘Shelter Song’ made Temples’ name, with its twangy sound and call-and-response-type chorus harking back to later era Beatles, and its incessant drive surely inspired by krautrockers Can. Three years later from their debut release, the sound of the band publicly endorsed by Noel Gallagher in 2013 hasn’t changed very much at all. At its centre it's a force driven by guitars, drenched in the sunny sound of dizzying pedals to accompany lyrics telling of spaced-out fortunes.
Produced by lead vocalist and guitarist James Bagshaw and recorded at the band’s home studio in Kettering, Volcano is full of the wistful guitar lines which match the band’s mythical aesthetic. With his corkscrew curls, oft-sequinned face, and slight frame, Bagshaw looks every inch the rock star, and his band, with similarly outlandish haircuts and sincere temperament, take their indie heartthrob prowess seriously.
Volcano, fits the same shapes we’ve heard before. Starting the album with a gnarly bass beat, lead single ‘Certainty’ quickly moves into the whirring chimes of their typical psychedelic sound. The mythical land they sing of in this track is “never land”, as Bagshaw’s production takes a distinctly dark turn with rumbling drums and boozy moog bass underneath what could otherwise be a bright, playful number. Opposition is seen too in the clever pairing of both synthetic and analogue sounds: guitars mirror the synth and vice versa, as the idea of psychedelia – rock ‘n’ roll meeting technology, and the studio becoming the instrument to take this all in – really takes hold.
In ‘(I Want To Be Your) Mirror’ it is Temples’ irresistible drive which powers the song on. A skilfully arranged synth melody line doubles itself before drummer Samuel Toms’ relentless thundering gives body to Bagshaw’s high-pitched crooning. “Carry me back to the bridges of before / Yesterday pretended to be more” he sings in his typical fashion of seemingly looking forward to something, somewhere, off in the distance.
It is this contemplation of the future which Temples’ dreamy output attempts to soundtrack. A full spaced-out slow comes at the beginning of ‘How Would You Like To Go?’, as the next question asked of us is “Where would you like to stay?” and then “Would you walk away?” As Bagshaw queries, the music too takes on a more wondrous sound, and a rare sense of uneasiness breaks up the thundering pace of the rest of the record.
While ‘Celebration’ has some cutting guitar lines, and its sparser sections are a welcome break from the often overbearing instrumental texture, the pleasing contrast which ‘How Would You Like To Go?’ brings to the mix is all too easily forgotten. The pace at which this track runs along, much like the otherwise charming ‘Strange or Be Fo rgotten’, becomes far too predictable.
The excitement about psychedelia should be the pure chase of something new and thrilling. Whether they follow the drug habits the movement is so closely associated with or otherwise, the sound Temples make is remarkably clean. These are musicians who know what they’re doing with a busy pedal board and a Gretsch guitar. Their riffs are catchy, and their synth sounds are wobbly enough. But I’m left wishing their acid-soaked, mythologising appearance was mirrored in their music.
Volcano is a fun album of tightly-crafted, catchy melodies. But it’s in no way reinventing the genre the band members so keenly idolise.
6Ellen Peirson-Hagger's Score