Temples familiar sound underwhelms on ‘Volcano’

With their long, greasy hair, old-fashioned clothing and distant demeanors, the band Temples seems to be stuck in the wrong decade.

The psychedelic rock group has a talent for creating songs that sound like they came straight out of the 1960s, an era that is still heralded by many as the golden age of musical expression. The influence of that decade is still alive and well inside the head of James Bagshaw, the band’s lead singer and guitarist from Northamptonshire, England. He, along with bassist Tom Walmsley, formed the framework for Temples in 2012.

Their debut album “Sun Structures” was released two years later, which was subsequently met with a surprising amount of success and critical acclaim. Clashmusic described the work as “the sound of ‘60s experimentation smashed stunningly into the present day.” Charting at number seven overall in the UK at one point, the band was enjoying their success, no matter how short lived it might have been.

Despite all of this, there were a few lingering issues with the band’s sound that many people began to point out. Their painstaking attention to detail when it came to recreating ‘60s rock made them, well, boring, and although their tracks sounded great, nothing about them stood out from any other band attempting to do the same thing. They are constantly being compared to Tame Impala, a similar, but slightly better, group from Australia, for focusing on that same “psychedelic rock revival” sound.

For “Volcano,” the band took note of the criticisms and focused heavily on changing their sound. While “Sun Structures” was a dense and fuzzy project, full of delayed organs and distant sounding vocals, “Volcano” is a punchy, energetic album layered with synths.

“The new album is Temples but Temples rediscovering things,” Bagshaw said in an interview with Shindig! Magazine. “We wanted to create songs that were interesting, but at the same time are doused in pop sensibilities.” 

Bagshaw puts his money where his mouth is in the opener “Certainty.” The track comes out of the gate sounding much more modern than anything off of “Sun Structures,” with a catchy synth melody ringing behind Bagshaw’s voice. The drums are very tight-sounding, placed in the front, giving everything else in the mix lots of room to breathe.

“Oh, The Savior” is an insanely catchy tune and was reportedly the first track the band worked on for the new album. The drum hits and guitar riffs work perfectly with each other and the synths are just subtle enough to not take over the song and change its tone. Flanger (that wavy guitar effect) is used intermittently and preserves the ‘60s sound the band began with.   

“Open Air” has a steady rhythm to it, pumping along like a train engine. Bagshaw’s voice continues to drag along with each note, filling a role about as important as the guitar or the synths. At times, it floats so far above everything else it is hard to understand exactly what he is saying.

Temples’ newer sound is refreshing at first, but it does begin to become redundant. Many of the songs off “Volcano” come off as nothing more than filler.

Not to beat a dead horse with the Tame Impala comparisons, but Impala’s album “Currents” does a much better job at transitioning from an older, vintage sound to a newer synth-filled one. Because of this, “Volcano” probably will not go down as being game-changing or boundary pushing, but it is worth a listen regardless.

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