Review: Contemporary Psychedelic Rock with Beatles and Pink Floyd Influences? Bring it on Says Temples

Temples
Exotico
(ATO)
4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Those not following contemporary psychedelic rock might not realize that Temples have been working in this somewhat cultish genre for close to a decade, releasing three albums over that time. This one is conceptually similar to the others but gets a much-needed shot at a larger audience due to the involvement of Sean Ono Lennon and veteran producer David Fridmann.

Lennon, whose own work, especially in his last few albums with Les Claypool, has leaned in this direction, and needs no introduction. Any fan of The Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev knows that producer Fridmann has been a driving force in some of those outfits’ finest, most experimental, work. The Fridmann/Lennon team, along with the previous output of UK band Temples, makes for an enticing combination before hearing a note. But…you never know.

Thankfully the results of this alliance confirm the speculation of possible greatness. This hour-long trip into ’60s sensibilities combines the dreamier elements of Pink Floyd and Khruangbin with the experimental funk of the Ono/Claypool project, along with just enough XTC-styled (perhaps in their Dukes of Stratosphere guise) oriented melodies and hooks to entice a larger audience to this unique amalgamation.

There is also no denying a Beatles influence, especially on selections like “Slow Days,” which sounds like something Lennon’s dad and McCartney might have cooked up in their spare time between Rubber Soul and Revolver. Three of the four Temple guys sing too, further drawing Fab Four comparisons.

The songs, all 15 of ‘em, connect on the first listen. But the sonic activity—between the shimmering synths, interwoven guitars, and detailed, carefully constructed arrangements—is so dense, that after it’s over you’ll need to push play multiple times to hear, and enjoy, what you missed.

Choosing favorites is difficult since each explodes with creative, candy-coated elements, but the Indian tones appearing in “Cicada” push it in a different direction than its soulful pop melody initially suggests, and the spooky keyboards infused in the heavier “Meet Your Maker” twist Temples’ music down yet another unexpected rabbit hole. Lyrics and vocals float over these imaginative aural beds but take a back seat to the creativity, which is so vibrant and visionary as to make the concepts behind the songs somewhat extraneous.

While the psychedelic aspects of Exotico can’t be understated, neither can the band’s grasp of pop. The effortless way Temples incorporates and balances those two styles makes them stand out as some of the most inspired practitioners in a sea of modern musical uniformity.   

It’s the best album Alan Parsons never created.  

Photo Credit: Molly Daniel / Big Hassle        

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