Psychedelic mischief-making from the Kettering quartet
Temples’ 2014 debut ‘Sun Structures’ arrived with sky in its hair and the endorsements of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr ringing in its ears, putting the Kettering quartet at the forefront of an exciting new wave of British psych. Yet whereas the artists they were most obviously indebted to – think early Bowie and Pink Floyd, Nazz and T. Rex – employed subversive humour and acid-fried absurdity, Temples themselves were masters of surface-level psychedelia: less a state of mind, more a feat of engineering.
In contrast to contemporaries like MGMT or Tame Impala, whose music foregrounds the quirks and neuroses of its creators, Temples’ music reveals little about the personalities behind it, other than the contents of their record collection and the breadth of their know-how. Frontman-producer James Bagshaw’s carefully constructed simulacrum of psych-rock’s gilded age was consummately done, but it felt more like the work of a highly skilled artisan than an all-seeing auteur.
To some extent, you could make the same criticism of ‘Volcano’, whose 12 songs similarly abound with trite imagery of suns, mountains and boats bobbing along on lakes of molten lava. Yet, much like its predecessor, ‘Volcano’ has a knack for winning you over: opening track ‘Certainty’, with its squelchy Moog bassline and lysergic Disney hook, is a sheer sonic marvel, while elsewhere the band’s sonic palette has been expanded to include the pulsing, proggy motorik of ‘Open Air’ and baroque chamber-psych of ‘(I Want To Be Your) Mirror’. Best of all is the note-perfect approximation of The Kinks going space-glam with Brian Eno manning the controls on ‘Roman God-Like Man’.
Temples might be missing the spark of genius and/or insanity that set their idols apart, and are occasionally guilty – as on ‘In My Pocket’ or ‘How Would You Like To Go?’ – of using psychedelic window-dressing to embellish otherwise unremarkable songs, but they remain supremely gifted melodists and assiduous students of the past. ‘Volcano’ may rank as more of a technical progression than an artistic one, but it’s no less impressive for that.