High praise from rock gods Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher, support slots with Kasabian, Suede and The Vaccines, and all without releasing an album; Temples have hardly taken their time to make their mark on the British music scene. A string of singles throughout 2013 have made this Kettering four-piece some friends in high places, but the walk must still be walked, and all too often promising young bands fall short at the first hurdle. The question is: in Sun Structures, do the band have the debut album that will live up to their early acclaim and propel them into mini-stardom, or will the wheels on this bandwagon fall off before it’s even got started?
Sun Structures makes us wait to find out, as five of the first seven tracks will be familiar to fans, having been released as singles or, in the case of ‘The Golden Throne’, leaked on YouTube. We know that nearly half the album is going to be great, but its success will much depend on what the other half has in store.
Lead single ‘Shelter Song’, with its addictive 12-string riff and catchy melodies, gets the record underway in perfect fashion, but it’s the title track that sets the tone for the rest of the album, with its driving beat, psychedelic swirls and ultra distorted guitars. The aforementioned ‘The Golden Throne’ is an album highlight, its menacing riff topped only by James Bagshaw’s drawn out vocals. There’s something almost Last Shadow Puppets-esque about the luscious strings in the chorus, and as the album progresses it becomes obvious that Temples, too, aren’t afraid of channeling the 60s.
Next is the glam rock ‘Keep in the Dark’, with its boisterous beat and elegant harps, followed by the emphatic ‘Mesmerise’. At this point you’ll notice a pattern emerging: withdrawn, simmering verses give way to expansive, symphonic choruses. It’s a formula that, when those verses and choruses are pretty damn good, serves the album well. ‘Move With the Season’ brings the record’s first truly ‘trippy’ moment, but it is single ‘Colours to Life’ that marks its high point. Its mesmeric jangly guitar intro builds to an epic chorus as Bagshaw sings of ‘love, lust, spaces in time bringing colours to life’. Indeed, what few lyrics one is able to discern from the intoxicating haze of psychedelia make little sense, but that’s half the point isn’t it?
It’s that beautifully crafted haze, though, that proves to be the albums one flaw. The second half of the record may not be as strong as the first, but the band’s knack for catchy hooks keeps it moving along more than nicely. The stomping ‘A Question Isn’t Answered’ and Arabian vibes on the epic ‘Sand Dance’ ensure that the album doesn’t fade as so many do. Yet Bagshaw’s cavernous production is all pervading, and there is little room for variation. ‘The Guesser’ is a bluesy, soulful little number that cries out for a more intimate approach. Album closer ‘Fragment’s Light’ harks back to Zeppelin-esque folk and gives the acoustic guitar a rare outing, yet even here the vocals are soaked in reverb and surrounded by distant guitars.
Make no mistake though, Sun Structures is as strong a debut as you’re likely to hear this year. The first half is close to flawless, and my call for some variation on the production side of things in the second comes down to my own punchier tastes. What sets Temples apart from their psych revival contemporaries is that their hooks, riffs and melodies are infectious enough to carry the listener through 50 minutes of music without drifting off. However far off it may be, album number two will decide whether Temples follow the path that sees them truly turn off their minds, relax and float downstream, or that that sees them filling arenas with their retro anthems.