Saturday 6th December 2014
The Ritz, Manchester
December 6th, the winter has finally reared its head in gloomy old Manchester and the nights become dark and cold. With this in mind, why not become indoctrinated into the warm, nostalgic, twanging sounds of Kettering's Temples. Sounds of the "Summer of Love" in the cold of the night.
Catching me by surprise as my eyes wandered around the grand beauty of Manchester's Ritz, opening band Superfood hooked me from the offset and refused to let go. The band had been recommended to me several times prior and for whatever reason I had neglected to pick up an album and jump in, I regretted this almost instantaneously. The band's presence and energy strike you first, each member looks like they would belong nowhere else but on that stage and this does wonders to peak your interest. Lead vocalist, Dom Ganderton, exudes the stature of a Pinkerton era Rivers Cuomo whilst igniting the room with an, at times, quite punk rock vocal ability. When hitting the more aggressive choruses I could hear a lot of Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles ripping through the room. It was these elements of Dom's performance that so beautifully intertwined with guitarist and vocalist Ryan Malcom's sweet, indie pop vocal melodies and precise guitar work to give the group a very memorable sound. Their ability to effortlessly switch from almost sarcastic, The Smiths style indie-pop harmonies to grungy, heavy breaks kept the venue in a perpetual cycle of dancing and moshing. At one point they could be channeling Blur, the next Queens of The Stone Age. With all of this held together by one of the nicest sounding, loping and precise drum tracks I've heard in a while and the calm yet confident rhythms of Emily's bass sections, oozing cool like few can. Their debut, Don’t Say That, is out through Infectious Music now.
I nipped out for a quick cigarette at this point. And in the minutes that I turned my back the venue had swelled to full capacity. Temples had already created an atmosphere without stepping a single foot on stage, I was ready to see what they had to offer. As the band appeared my initial impressions centered around the cohesive visual elements that glued the outfit together. From the vintage, yet pristine guitars and kit, to the Prince meets Wolf-mother exaggerated hair-do's, the band looked exactly how they sounded. The key-stone to all of this was possibly the most intuitive and mesmerizing visual backdrop I have ever seen. Consisting of three class-room projectors, overlaid atop one another with dyes being dropped, painted and swirled live to the music, creating a play of colour dancing beyond the performance. Once the music began to bloom images of Strawberry Fields, 13th Floor Elevators and The Doors careened into my head atop a double tracked, hazy high end vocal. These comparisons may be obvious, but they cannot be escaped and it is testament to the band that they can so obviously call back to these influences without the result sounding like a cover band or cash-cow reunion tour. I think part of their air of the modern comes from the, at times, heavy and almost metallic sections, breaking through the dream-like sequences with a harsh and biting reality. Temples seem very skilled at switching between these sections, sometimes without you even noticing. At one point I had been lost in a progression without noticing the music had evolved from twanging, high-end guitar leads to an Old-English choral woodwind section, the type that would have you river dancing round a may-pole, yet this didn’t seem out of place or unwanted.
Around half way into their set we were greeted with a small introduction to a few new musicians. A string section, horns and a harpist. These were beautiful additions to the musical tapestry being woven and unlike some acts that bring out a more classical arrangement, none of these parts became a gimmick, they instead merged with the existing timbres and graciously added depth to the sound, this worked beautifully. After a short interlude, the band dropped into one of the more well-executed outros I have seen for quite some time. The visuals became increasingly agitated and the vocals began to spread themselves over a bed of twanging, fuzzing guitars. The strings and horns providing a fan-fare for the rushing rhythms, the whole soundscape began to crash overhead like waves in a storm, and as if from nowhere the set saw itself out. I will definitely be checking out both bands in the future, and I would advise you to do the same.
Words by Sean Toohey
Image courtesy of Dan Kimber