Volcano

Temples

Fat Possum Records, 2017

http://www.templestheband.com

REVIEW BY: Ludwik Wodka

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2017

When I came across this band, it was by accident. I had no expectations and was completely caught off guard by this disc, which caught my attention the first time through. Right from the opening track, it had these brilliant melodic passages and catchy hooks.

Hailing from Kettering in England, Temples released their first album Sun Structures in 2014. It had a strong retro sound to it, reminiscent of late ‘60s pop in the vein of the Zombies and the Byrds, and earned much critical praise. As I continued to read more about this band, I grew rather annoyed by how many people dismissed the album as a Tame Impala knock-off. While I can see some similarities between this album and Tame Impala, I must insist that Volcano is different enough to merit evaluating it on its own terms. I will not belabor this review with a comparison between these two bands; they are both good, but they are also different. With that out of the way, I will move on. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

I have seen this band categorized as “neo-psychedelia,” which I found somewhat odd, because they avoid many of the key characteristics of old-school psychedelia, like the long improvised jams or disorienting sound effects. I’m not sure what qualifies this as “psychedelic” at all really. Maybe the synthesizers? Reverb-soaked vocals? It’s hard to say.

The album kicks off with the lead single, “Certainty,” which bursts open with a euphoric melody line on the keyboards, cools off a bit for the verse, and then comes back with the big chorus. The variations in dynamics, strong hooks, and variety of tempos and timbres on this track serve as a preamble for what the rest of the disc has in store.  

“I Wanna Be Your Mirror” is one of the highlights on the album, giving a nod to the Velvet Underground in its title. Built around well-crafted melodic lines, thing get interesting with the tempo shift in the chorus and odd time signature in the turnaround.

The one moment on the album that comes closest to being a bona fide “psychedelic” track is “How Would You Like To Go?” The drone-like verse with heavy reverb certainly give it that vibe, but the turnaround with its key changes and modulations are really the coolest part of this track.

Another album highlight is “Roman Godlike Man,” which almost sounds like a New Pornographers track with its propulsive rhythm, tight vocal harmonies, and countermelodies on the synthesizer. However, the distinctive melodic styling makes this song their own.

Soft spots are very few, but there is “In My Pocket,” which would have sounded better on their previous album. This is faint criticism, because that album is excellent as well. The one thing that always irks me on albums like this is when the vocals are pushed into the mix. I suppose I’m a bit old-fashioned in that way, but I like to hear the vocals out front.

Overall, I thought this was one of the best releases I’ve encountered this year so far. There is so much confidence and energy here that comes through in the music. Best of all, it marks a successful artistic step forward from their last album. It’s easy to paint yourself into a corner with a “retro” sound, but Volcano proved otherwise.

Rating: A-

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© 2017 Ludwik Wodka and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Fat Possum Records, and is used for informational purposes only.