Temples return with their neo-psychedelic follow-up to their neo-psychedelic debut Sun Structures. Some moments strike like Tame Impala lite, others soar and don’t look back. They didn’t sophomore slump with Volcano, they, well, I was going to say sophomore trump like they played a trump card, but I don’t think that’s super useable in 2017.
We kick off with “Certainty”, echoing the repeated, falsetto hook “I want to know that certainty is in my life.” It’s catchy, airy, uber-singable and has a light pop mix. Leaning in to the chorus, all I can hear is drums, vocals and a little icing. It’s a play from the top 40 playbook. Its cheesy on paper, but works wonders as an advancement on their sound. Not like a left turn into pop at all, more like a recipe with an extra appealing ingredient.
The second track, “All Join In” plays more like an intro, with its extended drum reverberations and epic mountain top synth line. The chorus is a half time jaunt with another soaring melody from James Edward Bagshaw. Elsewhere, “Oh the Savior” has immediacy and hooks on hooks. The first time through the verse it feels familiar, by the third time, you feel like you wrote it. Then the chorus takes off too. Like being in the stratosphere, then jumping in a rocket to go the mesosphere.
The majority of the choruses here feel airborne, popping back to the 90’s, when every verse was pointless, and every chorus could fly. But it isn’t just Temples’ choruses, it’s the way they lead into them. The one measure hold and pop, or the seamless flow, their transitions flourish.
The guitar makes one major appearance on “Roman Godlike Man”. The rest is plenty of psychedelic keyboards, like the rainbow sherbet leads of the leadoff track, and the waves of Cut Copy color on “How Would You Like To Go?” Also, the is-it-a-guitar-is-it-a-synthesizer lead on “Open Air” and the weighty, deliberate intro on “Celebration”. The sneaky hook lead on “Mystery of Pop” is inviting, my compliments to the chef.
The lyrics are typical dreamer, adventurer stuff, “We stand we land the form of parallelogram” and “mystic man stands like a contest”. They leave enough ambiguity for the imagination, sometimes leaning on the absurd with a british wit — “I’d like to put you in my pocket.” Like some psychedelic pop records, the first two or three listens offer little differentiation, but repeated listens reveal subtleties between the main similarities — drums, falsetto choruses.
They save the best for last as “Strange or be Forgotten” is the one track you won’t forget. A slightly funky groove kicks in, and a guitar echo base that both fade into a classic Temples verse melody, repeated, syncopated, and begging to be sang in falsetto. There are four different melody structures to the song, a verse, something of a pre-chorus, that fades into an additional pre-chorus, most bands would have built the song around these key pieces, but Temples bury the lede and keeps the chorus melody for last, and it’s the strongest on the record.
Volcano follows a rich tradition of British bands with pop sensibilities that flew under the radar: Supergrass; or never quite made it in America: Blur. How that much legendary music has come from that small island we will never know. This record’s closest counterpart is last year’s Currents from Tame Impala. Temples can’t quite reach pop solidarity like those Aussies, but they come close enough. B