Temples — Sun Structures [Finely Tuned]
Kettering based guitarist and singer, James Bagshaw, talks of the 60’s with a reverence which is hard to find in musicians nowadays. However, the Temples’ debut album, Sun Structures, will reveal just how much that time period inspires him. When James and bassist Tom Walmsley met, jammed, and uploaded four self-produced track to YouTube, they never expected what followed next—a record deal and contract with Heavenly Recordings.
Temples became an official band in 2012 when keyboardist and rhythm guitarist, Adam Smith, and drummer, Samuel Toms, joined the lineup. Jeff Barret, the founder of Heavenly Recordings, was so sure they would hit off in the post-rock market that he self-produced and released the band’s debut single ‘Shelter Song‘ in November 2012, just months after he first heard them. The band then went on to release two studio length albums, two EPs, and numerous singles.
Calling them a postmodern pop-rock band would be unfair as their musicality encompasses various other genres such as psychedelic and vintage glam rock. Maybe that’s why Britain’s very own Noel Gallagher (one half of Britain’s iconic pop-rock band Oasis) called them “Britain’s best new band”, heightening the expectations for their debut release. The praise they receive doesn’t seem high enough for this album—a commercial and critical hit that brought psychedelic vibes to the smartphone generation.
With an album sleeve that resembles the iconic one used by Who’s Next, the album appears to be from the 60’s; it wouldn’t be strange for any listener to be pleasantly surprised when they take a look at the release date. The instruments used have been curated to perfection, to ensure the perfect blend of 60’s mysticism and 70’s fun vibes to give the listener an altogether different vibe, that in many ways is being considered the revival of psychedelic rock.
The band often talks about their love of The Byrds, Nazz, and Marc Bolan, passionately in interviews, and Sun Structures reproduces the sounds of that era with ease and perfection. Infused with 60’s romanticism and mysticism, the lyrics will prove to be a major throwback to anyone who grew up listening to The Byrds, Stones, or Floyd.
Moving on to the various songs in the 14-track album, the titular song, ‘Sun Structures‘, is driven by a groovy bass-line and is accompanied by Billy Preston keys, a Mick Ronson guitar break, and David Crosby harmony vocals. This song is reminiscent of the band’s love for heavier psych-rock as made evident by the pulsating guitar riffs present in the track. The lyrics also transport us back to an altogether different era with its touch of allure and mystery. The track bubbles over with enough cool turnarounds and breakdowns to make it an encyclopedia of ’60s bubblegum guitar pop.
‘Shelter Song‘, which was initially titled ‘For Thee’, is easily the most nostalgia-inducing and fun track on the album, which is also why it was chosen as the opening track. The song is a testament to the band’s love for the 12-string guitar—it has extensive stretches with that multi-string guitar backing that helps create an eerie and reverberating atmosphere that the song and the vocals feed off of.
‘Keep in The Dark‘, starts like a Kasabian track, bouncing along rhythmically into a mysterious chorus and a heavenly, harp-sounding finale. It is a strong pop-rock tune, easily the most memorable four and a half minutes of Sun Structures’ hour-long running time. The arrangement is initially simple, with only the drums and acoustic guitar accompanying a bare vocal. As the song progresses, more elements are added gracefully—synths, backing vocals, wind instruments, strings, and later, a fuzzy guitar solo. It’s a great song for drives to the club. It is this very quality that saw it being featured in the soundtrack for the film ‘The Gift’. The track was also used as the backdrop for a Royal Enfield Productions travel video that helped increase its reach significantly.
The Byrds’ influence is most prominent in their guitar-heavy track ‘Mesmerize‘. The song boasts of effective chord changes and the most memorable chorus of the album. The melody is driven by Bagshaw’s lead guitar and Adam Smith’s psychedelic touches on the keyboard. The song also has a solid rhythm section.
‘Move with the Season‘ encourages us to live in the moment, both with its lyrics ( “Lend your ears to the sound of day”) and its eerie groove which will make you stop whatever you’re doing and just listen to the song. It soars and swoons in a somewhat melancholic fairy-tale dream state.
‘Colours to Life‘, with its pounding drums, bass, and a well-placed guitar riff, is incredibly catchy—a quality one finds throughout the album. It is also the most psychedelic song on Sun Structures with a multitude of references to space, time, and even spirituality. The varying changes in tempo and dynamics effectively transport us back into the 60’s with all its flashy bravado and political awareness.
‘Sand Dance‘ is a soundtrack to accompany a trek through an Eastern desert. Addition of African wind instruments and sweeping bass lines help bring out visions of the Mystic East through this song. If one had to describe the song using a single word, perhaps ‘trippy’ would be the most appropriate.
The album comes to a close with ‘Fragment’s Light‘, which is a lovely track that sounds like a lost Love and Rockets song from 1987. It’s a floating trip across a still platform, with guitar and drum embellishments adding beautiful touches to an otherwise plain track. The song is a nice end to a fantastic debut album.
The band is most successful when they write swinging 60s Brit-pop as if channelling Sgt. Pepper and early Pink Floyd, and dragging the whole package into the present, where Tame Impala, Toy, Foxygen, Melody’s Echo Chamber, and a handful of new-age psychedelic bands exist in harmony. The singer James Bagshaw, who recorded and produced the album in his house, is infatuated with The Beatles’ clever writing and essentially everything vintage rock. His songs contain 1960s style vocal harmonies, eerie 12-string guitar interludes, and blurry booming bass lines that recall the cassette era.
Sun Structures is a compelling listen throughout its 55 minutes, holding together perfectly with strong tracks. It is an amazing debut and sounds like a lost record from an era that we have a chance to rediscover today. Temples are clearly set to bring in ‘groupies’ if they follow up this debut with anything this strong and innovative.