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Temples - Sun Structures Album Cover

Temples - Sun Structures

Reviewed by
7.5
Temples - Sun Structures
Record Label: Fat Possum
Release Date: February 11, 2014
This review was written by an AP.net staff member.
There’s nothing inherently distasteful about bands—particularly young ones—whose sound is an obvious reference or homage to a particular previous era of music. However, what’s less clear is how closely a band can model their music after that of a prior era without sounding like a stale retread or insipid carbon copy. It’s a question that’s relevant to all of popular music, but for some reason it crops up quite often when discussing burgeoning psychedelic rock bands such as Temples. Based in Kettering, England, they have been hailed by the likes of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr as the best British band currently on the rise; whether that piques your interest or makes you heavily skeptical of them in the year 2014 is purely a matter of ideology.

It’s easy to understand what Marr and Gallagher see in Temples, however. Opening track “Shelter Song” lifts The Byrds’ jangly guitar sound in a manner not unlike Marr’s early work with The Smiths, but Temples go full retro and actually employ a 12-string. Likewise, vocalist James Edward Bagshaw shows a knack for pop hooks not unlike Gallagher’s, and the cluttered, dreamy production on Sun Structures owes as much to The Stone Roses’ debut as the records Oasis recorded in their prime do. But the real reason Gallagher’s such a big fan of Temples isn’t that the band sounds a little like his old one, but rather that they hearken back to the same classic era of pop-infused psychedelica that he so famously drew from—some would say ripped off—with Oasis.

Yeah they sound like The Beatles at times. Well, a lot of the time actually. Not unlike discussions of fellow up-and-coming psychonauts Tame Impala, it’s better to just make that clear from the beginning when discussing Temples than to beat around the proverbial bush. From the arabesque-flavored guitar a la “Within You Without You” found in “Sand Dance” to the pitch-perfect vocal harmonies in “Shelter Song” to the fact that half of Sam Toms’ drum parts on the record are either variations on or heavily influenced by Ringo Starr’s rolling rhythm on “Tomorrow Never Knows,” it’s impossible to listen to this record and not hear similarities with the late-60s work of the Fab Four.

Where Temples differ both from The Beatles and Tame Impala’s mastermind Kevin Parker, however, is that while those bands both expanded the realm of psychedelic rock—The Beatles by helping invent it, Parker by incorporating modern-day electronic elements—Temples seem content to adhere pretty faithfully to the established canon of psych rock records of yore. You know the ones: your dad probably owned one with a holographic cover that he flipped on eBay a few years back, and your slightly offbeat uncle probably owns a bunch and loves to reminisce about spinning them “back in the day,” most likely with the accompaniment of some mind-altering substances. Once again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, and Temples have succeeded in making a very enjoyable “throwback” record. The album's major sticking point though is the production style.

Recorded and produced entirely by the band themselves, as mentioned previously Sun Structures calls to mind the shimmering clutter of The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut. However, unlike on The Stone Roses, where despite all the layers of sounds in the mix each part still rings out clear as a bell, on this record the end result is at times a sort of muddy oversaturation. It's not that this an issue throughout the entire record; some tracks like “Shelter Song” and “The Golden Throne” sound perfect. Furthermore, the clutter found elsewhere on the record actually kind of serves as a foil to songs like “The Golden Throne,” allowing the fuzzy opening riff to leap out at you in a way it wouldn’t otherwise, and making the verse composed largely of just bass and drums sound quite thunderous and purposeful.

Sensory overload isn’t uncommon on psychedelic records, but the problem here is that Temples at times seem to use an unnecessary swirl of tricks to mask a lack of substance. Unfortunately the tracks that are weighed down the most by layers of synths, extraneous guitar leads and phaser effects seem to be the ones that are simply weaker songs as well. The first five tracks flow quite nicely, but “Move with the Season” is wholly forgettable and also utilizes the aforementioned phaser effect in an attempt to create an artificial climax towards the end of the song. But the band bounces back immediately with “Colours to Life,” one of the record's highlights and a song that really, really does sound like The Stone Roses.

But then things stagnate. Tracks eight through ten add nothing to the record, although since they aren’t really bad songs they don’t take anything away from it either. The issue is that as Sun Structures drags on through these tracks it makes the record's already-long fifty-three minutes seem a longer than they actually are. The album ends well though, with the ambitiously epic feel of “Sand Dance” and the brief postscript that is “Fragment’s Light.” Don’t expect a great deal of substance on these songs or elsewhere however; by and large the lyrics are the sort of tripped-out babbling that comes free of charge with most records of this ilk. But that’s not a huge deal given the infectious nature of Bagshaw’s refrains and his dreamy-but-not-meandering vocal performance.

All things considered Sun Structures is a very solid debut for a quite young band. The group could probably benefit from the assistance of an outside ear as part of the production and recording process, but they definitely know how to write a good song and also how to pull at its edges to give it the slightly off-kilter tinge we associate with psychedelic music. Additionally, while it is true that Sun Structures operates almost entirely within the bright and sunny paradigm of psychedelic rock, some songs do venture sonically towards the darker territory also associated with the genre. Perhaps a sign of things to come? We can hope.

Temples are a promising band that definitely has a great record—or perhaps several—in them, but this one isn’t quite it. It certainly does make for a colorful and fun listen though, so just unplug and enjoy the ride. That’s what psych rock is supposed to be all about anyway, right?

7.5/10
 
Displaying posts 1 - 7 of 7
10:38 AM on 02/12/14
#2
xtbs7645x
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Need to give it a few more listens, but loving it so far. The Golden Throne is amazing.
12:29 PM on 02/12/14
#3
leftapart
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Release date is wrong; you're one year behind! Looking forward to checking this out.
12:31 PM on 02/12/14
#4
Chris Collum
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Release date is wrong; you're one year behind! Looking forward to checking this out.
Nah dude they're just so tripped out they time-travel!

Thanks, nice catch haha
02:30 PM on 02/12/14
#5
SmeezyBeezy
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Nice write-up, been bumpin this album a lot since you plugged it in sqeaks.
02:55 PM on 02/12/14
#6
Chris Collum
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Nice write-up, been bumpin this album a lot since you plugged it in sqeaks.


Yeah it didn't hold up quite as much I'd hoped with multiple listens, but it's a fun album regardless. And even though I'll prolly forget about it in a month or so I know sometime I'm gonna be scrolling through my iPod on a hot day this summer, come across it, and be all "awwww yeahhhh" haha
06:22 PM on 02/12/14
#7
SmeezyBeezy
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Yeah it didn't hold up quite as much I'd hoped with multiple listens, but it's a fun album regardless. And even though I'll prolly forget about it in a month or so I know sometime I'm gonna be scrolling through my iPod on a hot day this summer, come across it, and be all "awwww yeahhhh" haha
Haha yeah exactly. When I first heard I was like daaaamn, but now it's already wearing thin.

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