Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Temperance Movement's 'The Temperance Movement' - Album Review

It is always nice to see a new rock band doing well. Reaching number 12 in the Official UK Album Chart, The Temperance Movement's self-titled debut album did very well indeed which is a considerable success for a band that was only formed two years ago! They play a brand of blues rock that owes a lot to bands like The Rolling Stones and The Black Crowes but without falling into too many of the clich├ęs that befall so many modern blues artists. The Temperance Movement are not original by any stretch, but they have a sound that is fresh and exciting so it barely matters. However the big thing about the band that really stands out for me is that everything about them seems so genuine. Far too many of the big indie/blues crossover bands, e.g. The White Stripes or The Black Keys, have never seemed 'real' to me. The blues has always been about real people singing about real things but those kinds of bands have always had an air of cynicism about them with their perfectly dishevelled hair styles and designer clothes made to look retro. Sure in interviews they might mention their love for many obscure blues guitarists from the 1930s, but it never comes across as anything other than contrived. In this respect, The Temperance Movement are a breath of fresh air and people are starting to realise that. They are attracting fans from all ages and walks of life and that proves they are writing good songs that transcend genre labels and boundaries. There is absolutely no pretence about them, which would be very hard to say about someone like Jack White. The Temperance Movement is just as much a rock album as it is a blues album which is another reason for it's huge popularity. Fans of the Faces, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Quireboys will all find something to like but it never feels like a copy of anything that has come before. British blues rock has been a musical staple for years and this is just another chapter in a long and diverse history. The band's debut release was the Pride EP which came out in September 2012 and all five songs from that EP (albeit re-recorded) also feature on this debut album. At first I was disappointed when I read about this, but when I heard the album and how well it flowed I no longer cared. In any case, the songs are excellent and it would be a shame if they were banished to obscurity on a now out-of-print EP.

The album gets off to a rocking start with Only Friend. The song is based around chunky riff that is present throughout but frontman Phil Campbell's gravelly vocals are the main focus. He really has the perfect voice for this sort of music. Luke Potashnick and Paul Sayer make for a a solid and unflashy guitar duo. Surprisingly for blues-based music, there is little in the way of extended soloing but their talents for melody and songcraft shine through. One of the highlights of the song is the slightly gospel section in the pre-chorus that makes good use of vocal harmonies from the whole band. Ain't No Telling is up next and has a distinctive American southern rock vibe. The riffs have a snaking, boogie feel to them and the laid-back verses with some nice snappy lead breaks under Campbell's vocals bring to mind The Allman Brothers Band without the overpowering organ. There is a solo in this song, and it is rooted deeply in the blues with choice phrasing and obvious melody. Pride follows and starts off slowly. Campbell channels his inner Don Henley here and shows that his voice is far more versatile than many of his contemporaries. Once the drums come in, the song is driven by a subtle bass line from Nick Fyffe that allows the guitars to intertwine on top of it. It is very chilled out but does pick up the pace a little towards the end, building naturally and unobtrusively. Be Lucky gets back to the pure rock 'n' roll sound of the first two songs and is the catchiest so far. The chorus is infectious and the rest of the song is supported by a simple riff that sounds raw and gutsy. It is one of the best songs on the album and will be stuck in your head for weeks. Single Midnight Black is up next and this is another really strong track. It has a real energy and sounds a little like a ballsier version of Status Quo. It has another excellent chorus and it is no wonder why they chose to release it as a single. It has a fun video (see below) to go with it that really encapsulates everything that the band are about - people having fun with good music! A nice solo is the icing on the cake and completes the picture, plus we even get a nice little drum outro from Damon Wilson!

Chinese Lanterns is the most stripped back song on the whole album. Campbell once again uses the delicate side of his voice and some understated slide guitar really enhances the mood of the piece. The Temperance Movement can really rock, but when it is needed they can also be gentle and their ballads are generally excellent. When they play this song live, they do it totally acoustically without any microphones or amplifiers. I can only imagine what a wonderful experience that must be! The next highlight is my favourite song on the album: Lovers & Fighters. If an Eagles influence is heard anywhere on this album then it is on this song. It is the most beautiful song on the album by a mile and opens with Campbell backed only by some acoustic guitar. Soon, some delicate keyboards help to fill out the fledgling chorus. Slide guitar really adds to the mood and the second chorus sees the whole band harmonising with Campbell to excellent effect. If Glenn Frey and Don Henley had written this song and put it on One of These Nights, it would have been a massive hit - that is how good this song is! After that melancholy, the album ramps it back up with the anthemic Take it Back. This is party rock at it's best with a catchy vocal refrain in the intro that is sure to go down a storm live. This also acts as a sort of chorus and it really is good fun. A real toe-tapper! The album comes to an end with two slow-burning epics. The first of which is Smouldering which is excellent. This song is sure to get many lighters (or phones) in the air with it's big chorus and laid-back guitar work. The thing that strikes me about Potashnick and Sayer is that there is always a lot going on in their playing but it never dominates the song. It is always adding something necessary and never turns into showboating. This is often my problem with some blues music, but The Temperance Movement do not fall into this trap. Serenity is the second of the two and, while it is not quite as good as Smouldering, it still brings to the album to an end and ends it on a high (not that there are really any lows here!). If I had a criticism of the album it would be that it would have been better to end the album with Smouldering and move Serenity somewhere else in the track listing - or maybe even have saved it for the next album as having two very similar songs together slightly ruins the effect of the second one. That is my only real issue with an album that is very enjoyable and a band that are surely destined for bigger things. With many sold out shows ahead and behind them, I am sure it will not be long before they are household names.

The album was released on 16th September 2013 via Earache Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Midnight Black.

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