by Adam Ellsworth
Sun Structures, the debut album from English rockers Temples, is an amazingly well-crafted and catchy slice of ‘60s-era psychedelia. As someone who enjoys ‘60s-era psychedelia, I certainly enjoy it.
But critically speaking, I can’t help but ask: What is the point of all this?
It’s 2014. Why make an album that sounds like it was made in 1967? Understand, I’m not asking “Why make an album that was influenced by the music of 1967?” I’m asking “Why make an album that sounds like 1968 to 2014 never happened?”
There’s no doubt a little bit of hyperbole in that paragraph, but not much. All over Sun Structures the organs swell, the guitars trip, and the vocals harmonize in a way that can only be described as, well, ‘60s. Given the recent psychedelic “revival” spearheaded by the likes of Tame Impala, this is hardly as out of left field as it might seem, but Tame Impala have always sounded like a modern band heavily influenced by the music of the 1960s. Temples just sound like a band from the 1960s.
To their credit, Temples would have been a really good band from the 1960s. They’re talented enough that the songs on Sun Structures never slip into pastiche. Temples are nothing if not genuine and ultimately, despite my above bitching, that really is the most important thing.
Opening track “Shelter Song” sets the mood with a chiming guitar (or is it an organ?) faintly reminiscent of a sitar and lyrics like “Take me away to the twilight zone.” The bass and drums lock in to create a hypnotic swell, just as they do throughout the album.
The signature song on the album is “Mesmerise,” which blends an obvious pop sensibility with the appropriate level of trippyness to make it fit with the rest of Sun Structures. “Keep in the Dark” starts as a jaunty shuffle before the (relatively mild) freakout comes. It’s a standout track and if nothing else shows that Temples can take their ‘60s sound in multiple directions.
It’s penultimate song “Sand Dance” that I like best. As the title implies, there’s an Arabian nights feel to the track as well as an appropriate dreamlike quality to the vocals. The drums and bass keep you steady while the guitars lift you off the ground and into a lazy float through the desert air. You can get lost in this song, though it’s strangely comforting.
All in all, Sun Structures is a fine 2014 album. I can’t help but feel that I’d like it more if it were released in 1967 though.
Adam Ellsworth is a writer, journalist, and amateur professional rock and roll historian. His writing on rock music has appeared on the websites YNE Magazine, KevChino.com, Online Music Reviews, and Metronome Review. His non-rock writing has appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, on Wakefield Patch, and elsewhere. Adam has a MS in Journalism from Boston University and a BA in Literature from American University. He grew up in Western Massachusetts, and currently lives with his wife in a suburb of Boston. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamlz24.