Review: The Temperance Movement – 'White Bear'

Well this has been a long time coming (or so it seems). Before we go any further, I have to admit to restricted partiality when it comes to The Temperance Movement. What can I say, I love them.

I have followed them pretty much since their inception, and like a favourite child I have watched them grow and mature. I have watched them play a bigger venue each time they visit Glasgow for a show, a show that never disappoints. The child analogy seems very fitting of late, as the little buggers have just up and taken off. They have turned the tables, and I now feel as though I am the child from the song “Only Friend”. I get the odd ‘hello’ on Facebook, but that is it (sigh). I suppose these are the sacrifices we have to make to see this band make it (and no one deserves it more). You could pretty much bet your wages this band would play your town at least twice a year in the past, and it has been that hard work that is now paying dividends with an American tour taking up almost all of 2015… well, that and support slots for this other little know British band The Rolling Stones.

It hasn’t been all limos and Lear jets though, as the boys have travelled the roads in numerous cars (due to break downs) and been their own roadies (so the track “We Are The Road Crew” is spot on in this case), but hard work pays off, not only in getting your name out there, but in honing your skills and coming together as a band, which makes me all the more excited for the upcoming UK tour.

How has all this affected the band, and more to the point, the sound? You have to take into account that these songs were written in all manner of places, and fitted in around the touring. You also have to take into account it was recorded in three separate venues over a period of time, and to my ears you can definitely tell the difference.

The first album was very direct, in your face, and instantly catchy. ‘White Bear’ is an altogether different animal. I will be honest, my first play of this left me slightly perplexed. There are instant classics and big hitters in the likes of ‘Three Bulleits’ and ‘Battle Lines’, but as a whole, it is The Temperance Movement at a tangent.

I would love to know the listing of songs as they were written, as I feel the band have been in different time phases with certain tracks. This album sees the band step more deeply into the mid-70s sound. I would suspect that is heavily influenced by the Stones tour. The more you play this album, the more ingrained in you it gets. It has the feel and soul of those flare wearing days, mixed with a groove like only The Temperance Movement do.

There is nothing modern about ‘White Bear’. It is unashamedly British and proud. It hails from the days when Britain ruled the world musically, it has grabbed the feel, sound, and possibly the dance ability of the drug-infested and incapacitated patrons of Woodstock, and made it their own. This is no bad thing and it is definitely The Temperance Movement to a ‘T’.

So… down to the nitty gritty. ‘Three Bulleits’ kicks things off, and most of the fans will have heard this one already. A perfect opener and first single. I can picture Phil Campbell’s dodgy ‘dad dancing’ going full swing to this. It has the swagger, the hip swaying, and a lovely little chant along. ‘Get Yourself Free’ has the older sound I was talking about. Almost a talk along track to begin with, before we get the upbeat thrill and Phil stretching his pipes to all different levels.

‘A Pleasant Place I Feel’ opens with a lonely bass strum reminiscent of  ‘Under Pressure’. It is that slow burner this band does so well. You feel the song, you catch the emotions, and you roll and sway along like the waters in a slow running brook. It is a very simplistic but beautiful number. “Modern Massacre” is keeping the old school hippie vibe right up there. It has Phil’s vocals deep, soulful, and almost jazzed up.

“Battle Lines” has an opening riff like Bon Scott Era AC/DC. The guitar is gritty, fuzzy, and totally distorted. In fact, it sounds like you are wearing those old headphones that has a loose connection. This, for me, was the best track by far. It is The Temperance Movement without a shadow of a doubt, and I wonder if this was written during, or just after, the debut. Utter brilliance.

The title track has a massive opening that really did remind me of Bowie, but I don’t know if that is because of all tracks of his I have played recently. The song has its highs and lows. The lows remind me of ‘Chinese Lanterns’, and kicks off with a top drawer rock sound. This is a close second place.

“Oh Lorraine” is also a bit of a masterpiece. Still placed firmly in the 70’s, but it has some of that disco that only the 70’s did. You know the type, with platform boots and dodgy matching outfits, but this is one hybrid I can live with. It probably should not work. The guitar sounds like a warm up for duelling banjos, and we have a good amount of echo on the vocals, but it is a belter.

With “Magnify” we have the stoner rock start, the ‘where the hell am I’ after waking up at a party. The guitar sound is stretched again, and if you close your eyes, it could easily be Mick Jagger singing this song… I can see those lips and little claps he does.

‘The Sun And The Moon Roll’ takes us back to classic Temperance Movement, and the whole thing is wrapped up with ‘I Hope I’m Not losing My Mind’. I know it is only January, but you have the best release of 2016 right here. The thing is, I reckon the guys will be hanging onto that title for a good part of the year.

What is the worth of an album? Where does it stand up and be counted? For me that is seeing the songs live, and I am glad I do not have long to wait for that. In fact, I am buzzing with anticipation to hear these songs in a live environment. That in itself is a marker to how good this album is. It is onwards and upwards for these boys, so I need to savour every moment of their live performance, as who knows what country or stage they will be gracing next.

Review: Ritchie Birnie


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