With endorsements from Noel Gallagher proclaiming them the best of the new underground bands and a host of opening slots for British heavyweights like Kasabian and Suede under their belts, it’s fair to say that the hype for Kettering’s Temples’ debut album Sun Structures is almost immeasurable. Based on nothing but a brilliant single, Shelter Song, they quickly became one of the British music scene’s most coddled darlings. Despite the acclaim, one simple question remains: can Sun Structures possibly live up to such high expectations?
Pitchfork panned it, calling it an uninspired reproduction of 70’s psychedelia. The NME hailed it as an ingenious mix of chart pop and old school styles, ready to inspire a new generation of musicians. We here at One On One have a slightly different opinion, and one that’s a little bit on the fence. Sun Structures, in itself, is a good record. It has tons of catchy tunes, some great instrumentation, and an interesting (if a bit formulaic) neo-psychedelia sound. However, one sad fact remains – Temples, while a great band, could never live up to the hype. In a way, you have to pity any band that a legend like Noel proclaims the next “godlike geniuses”; they’re doomed to let us down, even if they put out the next Definitely Maybe themselves.
Lead single Shelter Song opens the album and instantly piques one’s interest. It features lyrics that range from the coy and flirtatious, “late night, we shared a drink or three…” to the questionable chant, “take me away to the twilight zone”. You may not be sure whether they’re trying to lecture or seduce you, but its Middle Eastern-inspired guitar riff and simple-but-effective beat keep the song sexy and suggest the latter. The album’s title track Sun Structures starts off with flutes that are ever so Vampire Weekend, though we can’t help but detect a hint of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer video game music being mixed in for good measure. Keep In The Dark is a single with promise; it sounds more Beatles-esque than the Across The Universe soundtrack, but spices things up with deep bassy riffs here and there. A final favourite, Sand Dance, sounds haunted by the ghosts of sitar players past – it’s beautiful and lilting, with delicate vocals interspersed with hollow synths and echoed drums.
Though good, Sun Structures feels as if the band wishes they were bigger wasters than they actually are. It contains familiarly vague drug references and allusions to “feeling out of it” that let the listener know they’re definitely not revelling in a Sgt. Peppers level of hallucinatory drug haze, but rather taking this whole music industry thing quite seriously. It’s more likely to have been produced in a Starbucks than a hash café. However, these are not necessarily bad things. After all, a sober musician is a more technical musician, and Temples are nothing if not excellent for that. The lack of rambling, uninhibited insanity that imbues so many psychedelia albums is appreciated; after all, we liked the calculated psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane, but few cheered for Be Here Now. Slightly too polished to achieve the carefree boho sound it craves, but not quite so polished as to descend into insufferable prog, Sun Structures doesn’t exactly hit the mark, but it hits an audial sweet spot in the middle nonetheless. It offers great singles and a few choice album tracks that are sure to earn a prime spot on your playlist of the moment.