Temples, Sun Structures
Okay, so I need to listen to Jason (Smith, that is, fellow SCR writer and badass rock photographer) more often. Don’t get me wrong; I love the guy dearly, but we don’t always see eye-to-eye on things, even when it comes to music. Lately, though, he’s been batting a thousand, and after finally getting off my ass to listen to Royal Blood and now Temples, both bands he’s been raving about to me for a while, I’m resolving to pay attention more quickly next time.
Why? Well, because Temples’ Sun Structures is that rarity of an album, an intensely retro-sounding, ’60s-worshipping chunk of music that doesn’t make me nostalgic for Days Gone By but instead excited about what’s happening right freaking now. It’s a tricky line to walk when you wear your influences this proudly on your sleeve — and believe me, if the four dudes in Temples wore ’em any more fully, they’d be a Flower Power-era tribute band. But they’re not; what they are, against all odds, is a psych-rock band that draws heavily from the past not to preserve it in amber but to make it something new.
The last band I can remember encountering that hit me like was the sadly-departed Dutchess & the Duke, although where that band drunk deep at Eric Burdon’s well, Temples drink deep at the wells of Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Clark, and McGuinn, respectively, and proceed to breathe vibrant new life into the folk-psych sound. The fuzzy-yet-driving “Sun Structures,” in particular, is extremely Beatlesque, with some intriguingly Indian-tinged riffs and hazy, flower-child melody and harmonies (although I keep having flashes of The Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be,” too), but there’s also “Keep in the Dark,” which has a McCartney-ish bounce to it despite being rougher and more earthy-sounding.
Opener “Shelter Song” sets the tone for most of the rest of the album, warm and shambling and shaggy-haired, with hints of Primal Scream’s classic-rock mode in the vocals and rhythms and The Byrds in the guitars and overall atmosphere. “The Guesser” and “Test of Time” pull things forwards in time just a bit, with the former coming off like a ’70s AOR hit and the latter sounding more like a truly great, less-cracked Flaming Lips B-side more than anything else. They’re fine, fine songs, ones I’m hard-pressed to not listen to over and over again.
“The Golden Throne” tops my personal pile, though — it’s lush but murky, like a subtler, prettier cousin of Clinic, complete with a ridiculously great organ sound, and with little bits of Goldrapp’s spy-theme aesthetic peeking through the cracks. It’s seemingly friendly, but with a dark, sinister undertone to it all, like a pretty, beguiling girl leading you into a darkened alleyway to be rolled for your wallet.
At other points, Temples drift off into the stratosphere and drag you along with ’em, as on the gently swaying, pastoral “Move with the Season,” the wavery “Colours to Life,” the lifting-off-to-the-sky “Fragments of Light,” or the appropriately Middle Eastern-sounding (given the title) “Sand Dance.” “A Question Isn’t Answered” strikes a slightly different pose, thoughtful and atmospheric but still grounded by a droning, rock-solid bass (love those ahhh-ahhh-ahhh vocals at the end, by the way). Speaking of the bass, Thomas Walmsley’s bass sound on the propulsive, insistent “Mesmerise” is honestly the best bass tone I’ve heard in a decade, at the very least. Holy crap, people; I’m not even kidding.
Sometimes looking backwards isn’t a bad thing, despite all the adages to the contrary. It all depends on what you do with those influences you dug up way, way back in the past; Temples, for their part, know exactly what to do with ’em, and it’s glorious.
(Feature photo by James Loveday.)