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British neo-psychedelic rock – a thing of the past? Not quite, according to post-millennium purveyors of the genre, TEMPLES; or for that matter Australian equivalent TAME IMPALA and KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD plus a host of otherworldly exponents.
Formed 2012 in Kettering, a city in Northamptonshire, England, TEMPLES were initially a duo consisting of singer/lead guitarist James Edward Bagshaw and bassist/back-up singer Thomas Walmsley. James had cut his teeth in 2006 fronting Sukie, a post-Britpop combo who’d only one 7-inch platter to their name: `Pink-A-Pade’ (issued on New Slang Records). From these humble beginnings, the man’s next port of call was with Andy Croft’s undervalued The MOONS, though after several singles and a pair of albums (2010’s `Life On Earth’ and 2012’s `Fables Of History’), some say Bagshaw made the right decision to seek another outlet for his not inconsiderable talents; Walmsley played his part as an auxiliary on tour before both went awol.
TEMPLES almost immediately posted a EPs worth of tracks on YouTube, tracks that appealed to Heavenly Recordings founder Jeff Barrett, who turned `Shelter Song’ (b/w `Prisms’) in to the duo’s debut 7-inch. What was missing from the act was a drummer and a keyboardist/rhythm guitarist, so by summer 2013’s follow-up 45, `Colours To Life’, Sam Toms and Adam Smith respectively filled the vacant spots; the former muso was ex-Koolaid Electric Company and still of Secret Fix.
Third offering, the trippy `Keep In The Dark’, was very much in The BETA BAND or The CORAL motif, and alongside the ANIMAL COLLECTIVE-like `Mesmerise’, was one of the high spots on their glowing inaugural album, SUN STRUCTURES (2014) {*8}.
A universally-praised record that shot into the Top 10, Fat Possum Records were impressed enough to promote their wears in the USA by way of an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Okay, there were glaringly obvious signs they’d raided their parents’ BEATLES or LEFT BANKE vinyl collection concerning some flights of fancy back to 1966/67 for opening cuts `Shelter Song’ (re-vamped here) and the title track. The reverberating organ and chorale flourishes on `The Golden Throne’ guaranteed a recurring trip on the Tardis, whilst `Move With The Season’ was spacey and sugar-coated in a CROSBY, STILLS and NASH kind of way. And in the marching rhythms of the exotic FEVER TREE-like `Sand Dance’, or the ELECTRIC PRUNES-esque `Test Of Time’, TEMPLES couldn’t avoid elder cosmic heads greeting them with some skepticism. That sort of went out of the window when the record was subsequently re-animated by nu-psych wonders, BEYOND THE WIZARD’S SLEEVE, under its own steam.
In hindsight, maybe taking time to come up with a more pop-laden sophomore set was chancy. Nevertheless 2017’s VOLCANO {*7} hit the right note in parts, and with singles `Certainty’ and the poignant `Strange Or Be Forgotten’, TEMPLES were at least finding their own soaring sonic sounds through `Mystery Of Pop’ and `Open Air’. Bagshaw had allowed all but Toms into the songwriting side of the spectrum, however `All Join In’, `How Would You Like To Go?’ and the BOLAN-esque `Roman God-Like Man’ took a step backwards (in time).
A subsequent tour was the last for Toms (he later joined FAT WHITE FAMILY), and Rens Ottink stepped in at short notice; he’d remain as a live-only fourth member thereafter. TEMPLES then switched allegiances to ATO Records and began recording in, of all places, an outbuilding. Tasters for the proposed third set, HOT MOTION (2019) {*8}, sounded encouraging, but once again neither The CORAL-like title track, The KORGIS-esque `You’re Either On Something’, nor the bubblegum-prog `Context’, could break the day’s seemingly pro-hip pop/hip hop chart ban on “rock”. It therefore left a shard of kaleidoscopic light for the synth-free set, which incidentally stalled one place short of the Top 50. A return to basics for Bagshaw and Co should’ve given them a returns sales-wise, though maybe CARAVAN and KING CRIMSON had a case to pursue them for partly ripping off riffs to prog classics `Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)’ and `I Talk To The Wind’, respectively, on tracks `Holy Horses’ and `Monuments’. One couldn’t pull the wool over one’s eyes (and ears), so to speak. These foibles aside, Walmsley’s `The Howl’ stepped back into anthemic glam time-zone (ditto `The Beam’ and `Step Down’), though the hair-standing big-ticket items, `Not Quite The Same’, and the dreamy `Atomise’, were worth exploring again and again… time continuum… etc. etc…
© MC Strong/MCS Oct2019

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