Temples Live @ Neumos
April 9, 2014
By Ian Cunningham
Image by Lavid Photos
In the 1960s there were the Beatles, the ‘Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Eric Burdon & the Animals. The 1980s brought Elvis Costello, Duran Duran and Billy Idol. It seems like every twenty years, America’s shores are ripe for a new British Invasion. April 9 at Neumos I might have witnessed the emergence of the next wave.
Starting their first US tour, Temples are on a bullet train for the spotlight. In just barely a year, the band has picked up the praises of legends Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher and just this February released their debut album Sun Structures. It’s the sort of rags to riches (though, I doubt they’re making much money yet) story that fuels rock & roll. And these guys definitely appreciate rock & roll. Learning from the playbook written by the Kinks, the Byrds, and every other influential band of the psychedelic rock movement, Temples sound like they walked right out of Haight-Ashbury as if almost fifty years of glam, pop, hip-hop and dubstep never happened.
Their music is a classic balance of pop-harmony driven melodies with catchy vocal hooks layered over distorted and reverb-soaked guitar. The bass walks calmly underneath, always present and driving the group forward, while the drums do little beyond their basic function of keeping time. There’s really no new or ground-breaking way for me to describe the general concept of Temples’ music beyond simply stating that its “psychedelic rock.”
But it’s not just the music that captures that hippy era feel, they’ve got the old-style mop haircuts – lead singer James Bagshaw going for something in between Bob Dylan and an afro while bassist Thomas Warmsley looks like a spitting image of Keith Richards – the tight, shiny shirts with all of the androgynous jewelry and the pale faces of true British rockers.
A new band with a limited set list, Temples were confined to playing straight through their album and, much like Sun Structures, the only flaw with the band’s performance was the lack of climax or conclusion. It’s great that Temples found the formula to be the next Cream but that can only last so long before every song begins sounding exactly the same. The same vocal harmony driven choruses, the same oriental-influenced guitar riff, the same unnecessary fake exit before an encore, and the same weird lyrical references to some foreign magic that only Jimmy Page would understand. It’s not a fault that’s unique to them – plenty of the original flower children couldn’t write their way out of that mundane confinement.
One could argue that Temples’ connection to their contemporary audience comes in their ability to record with modern technology, allowing for a wider variety of sounds and overdubbing to fill the space, but the band won’t be able to rely on the crutch during their live shows.
There was little in the way of crowd interaction from the band beyond Bagshaw telling the audience “We never imagined this” [in reference to the large crowd size] before cheekily adding “…we imagined more!” (In person it came across a lot more sarcastic and with less pompous douchery than it reads here).
The second half of the show carried that air of static momentum with little really setting any song apart from the one before, at least until the encore. It was only the final song, the radio-friendly “Shelter Song,” which got the crowd truly roaring and became the concert’s noticeable highpoint. You could tell that a large portion of the audience had come only knowing that song, sitting patiently through the rest of the hour, waiting for the three minutes of that George Harrison-esque riff.
Talking with the drummer from the opening band Drowners, he explained to me just how amazing of an experience this was for himself, his band and the members of Temples. “No one in the UK gives a s**t about our shows,” he said. “The only groups anyone ever pays attention to are the Americans.” It must be something in the accent that keeps us all coming back for that swap across the pond. Arctic Monkeys swept award categories last year with their latest album AM, the newest boy band craze, The Strypes, have been cranking out old blues and rockabilly with punk speeds, and now Temples are drawing huge crowds on their first visit to the States. If this is the next British Invasion then I for one couldn’t be happier.
Ian Cunningham is a local musician, writer, and recent UW graduate in English Honors. Obsessed with Muscle Shoals, the Wrecking Crew, Warren Zevon and the Rolling Stones, Ian is often described as either an old-soul or the most crotchety twenty-something you’ll ever meet. Follow Ian on Twitter at @iancunn.