Thursday 6 February 2014

Temples - Sun Structues

Album review by

I'm not the only one round these parts to get excited by the new great hopes of UK psychedelic music, Temples. Ever since the release of 'Shelter Song' back in 2012 they've impressed with a series of singles. However, one potential problem was highlighted by a live review: besides the singles and their B-sides, the band might have had the sound, but a full quota of songs good enough to build an album from was a destination they'd yet to reach. Some time has passed since then, and the Kettering band have finally provided us with the pudding, and now the proof will be in the eating. The first point of note, is that although 'Shelter Song' gets the record underway, its equally good B-side 'Prisms' is nowhere to be seen. Now, if a band were struggling for material then the temptation to include this would be difficult to resist. Likewise, the B-sides to 'Colours To Life' and 'Keep In The Dark' don't make the cut. Perhaps they do have the strength in depth after all.

We all know there's been a psych revival of late, and there are many British bands that are involved, but, like it or not, Temples have become the ones most likely to; the poster-boys for the movement if you like. The sound, almost without fail, has its roots in '60s pop. There's little in the way of rambling sonic explorations, most songs hover around the four or five minute mark. The influence of the whole 'Nuggets' sound is very evident, although this album sits at the more flowery end, and despite a distinctly retro sound, 'Sun Structures' does manage to sound modern at the same time, and this is largely down to the production which uses a few tricks that essentially give the music a kick up the rear end. For the most part, the tracks, although varied enough to work without becoming a monotonous blur, are unmistakably by this band. They have their sound, and it's one that involves sharp drumming, the odd flourish of vocals and twinkles that add some magic, plus a good dose of the more psychedelic records by big-hitters like The Beatles or The Small Faces.

'Shelter Song' is still like The Byrds ingesting some Northern Soul; the title-track flies along like a runaway train with wistful vocals and the sense of being lost in the sunlight, it also introduces an Eastern flavour which crops up from time to time over the album's duration, at times being difficult to decide whether sitars are being used, or whether that's just the way they're manipulating the guitar sound. We'd plump for the latter as a rule, but it's effective. There's even more fantasy about 'The Golden Throne', almost as if The Chemical Brothers had remixed a track written by Syd Barrett; big beats aren't used sparingly, they're a regular fixture. The other notable aspect of 'The Golden Throne' is that the chorus is almost certainly borrowed from somewhere else, although pinning it down is something of a struggle. Perhaps one of Britpop's more psych-oriented bands, right down to the string section (which reminds you a bit of Love's 'Forever Changes', and that's rarely a bad thing). The singles merrily bop along with a sunny disposition and borrow the odd feather boa from Marc Bolan. In reality, any tune here could be a single; they can all be appreciated after a single play, yet unlike much music that behaves in a similar way, the flavour is not lost through repeat plays. If anything it's enhanced.

The last few tracks will be new to most. 'Move With The Season' is a hippy dream and allows you to just float along with it, offering more depth and grandeur than most. It would have made a nice finale, but there's more. 'A Question Isn't Answered' is about as typical as Temples get, but it's still enjoyable; 'The Guesser' is a bit more lively and again is difficult to fault, mixing in some nice soul touches; more clattering drums make 'Test Of Time' as close to a genuine '60s relic a we get. There's nothing wrong with any of these songs, they're all slightly magical in their own right, but we've still got two to go, and by this point it's starting to feel like too much. Then you realise the album is 53 minutes long. This is a length that works for some genes and formats, but in this instance it all gets too much. 'Sand Dance' should captivate, but by this point the thought of a six-minute odyssey is daunting and it passes you by a little. The mellow 'Fragment's Light' makes for a dreamy finale, but by now the mind has begun to wander. This is a crying shame because each song deserves its moment in the sun and they haven't delivered any substandard material; 'Sun Structures' outstays its welcome perhaps. Chop quarter of an hour off to release as an EP at a later date and we'd be looking at an album of the year contender, but this style doesn't lend itself that well to such a duration. As it turns out, the opposite of our suspicions is true: Temples do have enough good songs after all; in fact they have too many. The music is faultless, the only thing wrong with 'Sun Structures' is that it does't know when enough is enough. Regardless, this album does mark the arrival of a great band with some truly glorious tunes.

Stream the album in full

Temples' website

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Feb 24 Oran Mor, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Feb 25 Fruit, Hull, United Kingdom
Feb 27 Nottingham, Rescue Rooms Nottingham, United Kingdom
Feb 28 The Cockpit, Leeds, United Kingdom
Mar 01 Manchester Academy 2, Manchester, United Kingdom
Mar 03 O2 Academy2 Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Mar 04 Library, The Institute, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mar 06 The Globe, Cardiff, United Kingdom
Mar 07 Old Fire Station Bournemouth, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Mar 08 O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London, United Kingdom
Mar 18 O2 Academy Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
Mar 19 O2 Academy Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Mar 20 Manchester Academy, Manchester, United Kingdom
Mar 22 O2 Academy Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Mar 23 Rock City, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Mar 25 O2 Academy Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Mar 26 O2 Academy Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom
Mar 27 O2 Academy Brixton, London, United Kingdom
Jun 07 Victoria Park, London, United Kingdom
Jun 08 Victoria Park, London, United Kingdom

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