Review: Temples – ‘Sun Structures’

templesartThere’s only so far an endorsement can go, but Temples have been offered the rare dual accolade of being loved by both Johnny Marr AND Noel Gallagher, the sort of props many other new British bands would sell their grannies for.

That’s not quite the full story of course, as Noelly G was simultaneously using the Kettering foursome as an example of the kind of act sidelined unfairly by Radio 1’s taste-makers – as well, funnily enough, as himself.

On first listen, there’s little denying their chops are fashioned from the DNA of sixties Swinging London, references that probably helped to seal the backwards compliment of having them shooed in the direction of Radio 2.

It’s the kind of slight which less pragmatic outfits would’ve taken to heart, but no matter though, because ‘Sun Structures‘ proves handsomely that contemporary pop is very much in the ears of the beholder – especially in the less than groovy 21st century – vindicating Temples’ confident mojo even before you can think the words ‘Kula Shaker‘.

If you want to stay in the spirit of Oasis for a split second more, musically the band are in the kind of place Da Brudders Manc might secretly aspired to have been; ie more Beatles, but much less sex. On ‘Mesmerise‘ they’re as in character as possible; here soundeth chiming guitars, a chorus so big you can probably see it from space and singer James Edward Bagshaw giving of his best pre-breakdown Syd Barrett.

In musical terms they’re not as clever as, for example, Tame Impala, or as self-conscious as Cloud Control or Real Estate, but equally the likes of ‘Move With The Season‘ and ‘Keep In The Dark‘ are a long way from the sort of disposable pastiche that some of this record’s less open recipients might’ve been expecting.

The latter has an unmissable kind of swing to it, garnished by a briefly glorious fuzz pedal solo and Bacharach strings, fading out to beams of stardust and nymphs twisting at the bottom of your garden.

There is a bit of a problem with all this Carnaby Street grist, being that if you’ve been brought up on dubstep and plasticised R&B, getting your head around ‘Sun Structures’ is going to be like stepping out onto an alien planet.

The band aren’t having any of that of course, stating that their take on the good ship pop should aesthetically translate into almost any context, but you can see a few vinyl copies of ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake‘ getting ruined in the near future if the vibes here really take hold over the nation’s youth.

In fact, repeated listens and a little patience reveals a deft mix of brawn and brain, helping to avoid any knee-jerk lapses into pastiche. There are a couple of nervy moments – the start of ‘Test Of Time‘ recalls Bagshaw’s history in The Moons; a band fixated by The Jam, whilst ‘The Guesser‘ is too slight and glam, falling into the obvious Austin Powers trap.

These help underline that as world conquering as it became, British music was in tightly concentric, ever decreasing circles of creativity until 1967 broke its song cycle in technicolour, sending our Victorian hang-ups into a kaleidoscopic, wonderful tailspin.

Colours To Life‘ and the six-minute closer ‘Sand Dance‘ aren’t as weird, spaced out or free wheeling as the excesses of that era, but succeed due to avoiding the three minute verse-chorus-verse route which had become a formulaic straitjacket.

Those aforementioned high profile advocates may have set expectations just a little too high for ‘Sun Structures’ to reach, but whilst it’s a record neither would’ve made themselves, it’s still compelling and cosmic enough to take their word for it and dive in.

(Andy Peterson)

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