Temples is one of those lucky bands whose road to recognition was rather short. After releasing its debut album Sun Structures, which blended characteristics of pop with psychedelic sounds, the Kettering quartet received acclaim from all kinds of British rock giants, from Noel Gallagher to Johnny Marr. On top of that, it garnered opening slots for bands like The Rolling Stones and Suede. Hence, it’s safe to say that there was a good deal of anticipation surrounding the group’s sophomore release, Volcano. Temples fans will be pleased to know that the album is an interesting trip rife with glistening instrumentation and memorable melodies.
Some of the best songs on Volcano are the ones that experiment with unconventional noises while using relatively familiar structures. One of these tracks is “Certainty,” which instantly evokes comparisons to the first half of MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular. The single’s cheery synth hooks and soaring vocals make it a stellar soundtrack for the impending arrival of spring. A similarly catchy song is “Mystery of Pop,” which begins with driving percussion and is soon taken over by a gorgeous flute riff that just might be one of the album’s best gifts to the ear. Lead singer James Bagshaw hits all the right notes here, quite literally. Whether he’s using his falsetto or sinking into the deep end of the staff, he sounds quintessentially English, adding to the song’s British-Invasion-inspired vibe. “Oh the Saviour,” which sounds almost like a Britpop single and stands out for its key changes, is another solid track in this vein.
Volcano also has quite a few good tracks that emphasize the ambling, unpredictable side of psychedelic rock. Exhibit A—”(I Want to Be Your) Mirror,” a song that, like “Mystery of Pop,” boasts a flute riff that conjures up fairytale imagery. The song occasionally ventures into surprising sonic territories, but is grounded by its easily singable chorus, which is what makes it one of the album’s highlights. “Born into the Sunset,” an uplifting track with an ethereal vibe created by backing vocals, is another psychedelic hit. Admittedly, there are a few times during the album when the listener gets lost, but ultimately, Temples’ knowledge of hooks comes through.
Lyrically, Volcano is notable for its universality. The majority of its songs consist of curious phrases that use intriguing, but vague language to ponder themes like love and mortality with minimal context. In fact, just about the only clue that the album was written on Earth and not some other strange English-speaking planet is an allusion to David Bowie on “Mystery of Pop.” In some ways, this is endearing—after all, who can deny the power of a unifying statement like “All join in; invite the world to come on in”? At the same time, though, it does leave you wanting to hear more about the Temples boys’ lives. Then again, one could also make the argument that on a Temples record, the sound of the lyrics is more important than their meaning. While this argument wouldn’t exactly hold up for songs like “How Would You Like to Go?”, whose repetitiveness is a bit grating, it definitely rings true at moments—for example, when Bagshaw references “parallelograms” and “the Netherlands” on “Certainty.” Does anyone know exactly why he chose to sing those words? Not really. Does anyone want to know? Again, not really—because they just sound cool in their respective lines. Should we really fault Temples for prioritizing assonance over meaning occasionally?
Overall, Volcano is an enchanting, intricate album that merits multiple listens. Even its weaker songs have memorable moments that foretell a bright future for Temples. Fans of psychedelic rock should definitely dive into its world—they’re sure to find plenty of audial gems.