Temples’ first album, Sun Structures, was lavished with acclaim by the likes of Jonny Marr and Noel Gallagher, who bemoaned their lack of air-time on the radio. But is radio silence a blessing or a curse? How often do we hear the likes of Syd Barrett or Tame Impala on our morning commute, for instance? As with all good psychedelic prog rock, it shouldn’t be a radio-friendly foray into soundscapes which dips its toes at the edge of the liquid acid pool and goes no further. It should be an authentic experience – an experiment. And let’s be real, how often do experiments go right?
Volcano is definitely an experiment, abound with momentary genius and faux-psychadelic smoke and mirrors alike, it simultaneously hits all the right notes whilst not quite taking that final step just yet. But that’s okay, because with all truly great bands, the development of a sound and the perfection of a project takes trial and error, it takes experimentation. Pink Floyd released several albums in a process of self-discovery before they truly made it big with Dark Side Of The Mood, but that’s not to say that Obscured By Clouds and Meddle weren’t fantastic albums in their own right.
Volcano develops on the opulent sound teased at in Sun Structures, maintaining progressive chord structures and catchy guitar licks whilst introducing rich and plentiful layers of synth. The Kettering-based quartet still record in the same home studio in which they started life when they began recording music for YouTube. They have certainly come a long way, but their unconditional sound remains threaded throughout the album.
The album starts as strongly as it finishes, it sweeps you up into the clouds and lowers you gently back down before you even know what has happened. Thick and fast the great tracks flow, Certainty is catchy and upbeat and introduces the album strongly. I Wanna Be Your Mirror layers light guitar arpeggios over thick, bass synth and offers a juxtaposition of depressing lyrical truths with a joyful sound. Oh The Saviour begins as a welcomed acoustic breather in an album where the tracks come thick and fast (the longest is four minutes 46 seconds, relatively short by modern prog rock standards).
Beyond this point, however, things deteriorate somewhat – the whole album is sci-fi-esque, but a few of the tracks at the heart of the album could be mistaken for the Doctor Who theme, there is a sense of familiarity, a déjà vu as you wend through the track list. Haven’t I heard this one before? No, it’s just a radio-friendly pop song dressed up in psychadelia. They’re not, by any means, bad tracks – standalone, they’re still a welcome breath of fresh air in a musical society where Garage Band loop tracks and pathetic drops reign supreme, where originality is dead. But by the high standards set by the rest of the album, a waning midpoint when the album should reach its zenith is somewhat disappointing. The album finishes on a high point with Strange Or Be Forgotten, a reverent, soulful track perfect for ending the album – it looks back on all that has come before it, with poignant lyrics and thoughtful, slow music, it reaches the expectations it sets itself in the album early on once again.
Temples are the band that Britain deserves right now. They are the band that looks back on our musical legacy, on our progressive and psychedelic history, and asks: why can’t this genre be relevant today? With Volcano, they have answered: it can. They may still be finding their feet, but this album is no baby step.