The second half of the 2010s has so far proven to be a bit of an epoch for ultra macho, ‘70s obsessed psych rock. With releases from bands like Tame Impala, The Lemon Twigs, and Pond over the past years the scene feels like it has been set. Every moment of guitar overdrive and distortion is uncanny. Vocals that harken back to the psych gods of the ‘60s can feel almost derivative and relatively unnecessary. This kind of psych rock homage can be fun, but for it to really work there needs to be an element of reinvention.
In the Temples’ second Fat Possum release Volcano; we are presented with a pristine, sepia toned collection of twelve lengthy tracks. The album is full of tight baroque rock arpeggios that are blown out of the water with the addition of heavy synth and pedal work. Starting most notably in the album’s third track “I Wanna Be Your Mirror,” we hear the band craft these kind of classical piano riffs, giving the album a sound that could be found in a scratchy classical vinyl or as the opening credits to a video game. Temples quickly stomps on the fuzz pedal and transforms the track into hazy acidic bliss. Later on in “Mystery Of Pop” we hear similar themes but with more layering incorporated. The song is dense, with multiple synth lines fused with both front and backing vocals. “Born Into The Sunset” is the album’s highlight. The five-minute track is sprawling, coming in like the noise on your radio dial and transforming into a gorgeously loud and complex melody. Just when you think the track is about to end, it starts all over again, picking itself up and then jumbling everything up.
What Temples does well in this record is all technique oriented. The skill level in the band is high: you can’t really poke holes in the craftsmanship surrounding how any member plays their instrument. What you can poke holes at, unfortunately, is Temples’ ability to have a real coherent identity. Talent can only take a band so far and in Temples’ case their growth feels stunted. The concept for this record is lacking for how great the band’s technique comes across. Temples is a band that has potential to move out of the macho psych rock cannon, they just need to discern themselves and decide what makes them more than just another set of great male vocals and good guitar playing.
Volcano is available now.