Almost three years ago to the day, four young men released their debut album that would not only change their lives but would shake the music world. Temples‘ Sun Structures made psychedelic rock cool again. The album was an ear-popping gem that brought audiences back to the era of technicolor. Not surprisingly, Sun Structures was among the most critically acclaimed albums, including being named one of our 50 Favorite Albums of 2014.
The quartet from Kettering, England, toured extensively for two years in support of the album, but took off the last year-plus to recharge and prepare for their sophomore album. At long last, the time has arrived, and Volcano is out today. Can Temples capture the energy and brilliance of their debut album? What new tricks and surprises, if any, will they have in store? Or will they play it safe and give us a Sun Structures, version 2.0? We share our First Impressions on one of our most anticipated albums of 2017.
It’s often so hard to top a debut album that completely exploded – that goes for any artist or band. When “Certainty” first was released, there were clues that Temples seemed to be evolving their sound a bit from their previous work. With Sun Structures they hit a complete homerun and the album was revolutionary and easily one you could just play over and over in it’s entirety. Volcano will be one to grow on yet probably just because the expectation from their previous effort is so high.
“Certainty” is a great track along with the closer “Strange or Be Forgotten” and reminds most of their previous work . Temples add a few different elements and include different sounds on this album like “(I Want to Be Your) Mirror” providing us with an orchestral pop vibe. “Roman Godlike Man” takes us on a trip of psych infused rock possibly inspired by The Kinks. “Open Air” is groovy and reminds of the 80s (think the Goonies soundtrack). Technically, this album is quite impressive and lets us know that they can still produce psych inspired rock with variety. I give Temples credit for not trying to recreate Sun Structures and attempting to evolve a bit in their sound and production level. If the album Sun Structures didn’t exist, this would still get a thumbs up from me so I’m going to keep it that way. Volcano can still easily be consumed in one fail swoop it’s just not the same as it’s predecessor.
Sun Structures was one of those eye-opening albums for me in 2014. I was completely blown away by the inventive depth of Temples’ sound, and that LP had multiple songs that instantly became personal faves. Perhaps then it’s unfair to compare the adrenaline rush of those songs to the fare on Volcano. Aside from the “Certainty” lead single, few tracks on Volcano elicited the same euphoric swell. Where was the technicolored mind trip that I felt with “The Golden Throne”, a song that resonated on a cellular level upon first listen? The ones that come closest – “(I Want to Be Your) Mirror” and “Mystery of Pop” – both have dynamic scope and superior production. And the synth-heavy “Strange or Be Forgotten” with its driving percussion is another standout.
There is no denying the talent of Temples. They are consummate professionals who call their own shots and are learning as they go. Maybe this album will reveal itself to be a grower, but after multiple spins, it seems to fall short of the bullseye its predecessor hit. Its psychedelic hues still shine brilliantly, as expected. Volcano feels less like ’60s-era pastiche and more like a fresh interpretation of modern psych rock that swims closer to the tides of Tame Impala. While that’s not a bad thing, it’s less innovative than what fans expect from Temples. Overall, it’s a solid follow-up that will likely grow on listeners over time.
Ending an album with “Strange or Be Forgotten” is a bold move for a band that is working under the incredible weight Temples’ early success. Do you really need to [be] strange or be forgotten? What made Sun Structures great was not that it was strange. It was that the writing was strong, the songs stuck with you, and the sound was cohesive and more fun to digest than other psych-rock revivialists.
Now, with a pretty good second album under their belt, are Temples going to be forgotten? I like this album quite a bit but there’s a few too many Tame Impala soundalike moments in it for me, the swirling vocal effects a tad too deep, the classic 60’s psych rock chord changes a little too easy to see coming, especially in “Certainty” and “I Want To Be Your Mirror,” but Temples remain a band that can really write a song. Maybe this will help them see that they might not need to force the strangeness, because we won’t forget, we’re here for the next one even if this one doesn’t bowl us over.
When a band explodes on a scene with a debut album celebrated as one of the finest of the year – if not the first half of this decade – expectations will be through the roof. Temples’ Sun Structures was a remarkable record, as the Kettering, UK quartet brought new life and vision to psychedelic rock. It was fresh, uplifting, contagious, and euphoric, an album that was put on constant repeat. Their sophomore album, Volcano, however, does not quite achieve the spectacular level as their debut, but it is still a fine album.
The bookends “Certainty” and “Strange or Be Forgotten” are the highlights, matching the cosmic wonderland of their debut. In between, the album has mixed results, mostly – and much respect and credit to Temples – due to the band taking a few chances and liberties. The subtle synth flourishes of “All Join In” are terrific, providing a great opening to the groovy melody that closes the song. Temples also look to an unexpected source for inspiration, as “Oh The Saviour” and “In My Pocket” are Ty Segall-esque in their delivery but with a more technicolor base. There are some missteps – “Born Into the Sunset” takes too long to delivery and “Celebration” suffers from a too grandiose vision and over production – but they are in the minority.
Volcano is a grower of an album. It doesn’t have the immediate knockout effect of Sun Structures, but there are moments of brilliance. Temples also take more chances, which will only aid them as they advance. The LP, as such, could be viewed as a transition – much like Neon Bible was for Arcade Fire – for a band that is still refining its sound. It’s still a pretty darn good album.
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