I’m a bit conflicted. I’ve been just served a meal. It has been cooked really well. It has some of my favourite ingredients in it. It is beautifully presented and I even like the pattern on the plate. It is fine, I ate it all up but I’m not satisfied. I still feel hungry. Which is kind of how I feel about The Temperance Movement White Bear, the first 2016 LP I bought this year.
I enjoyed the band’s self-titled debut LP but thought it could have done with a bit of a vicious song cull* to make it shorter and more listenable. I was excited enough about this album to pre-order it, which is how I’ve got a white vinyl version complete with a print signed by all the band, limited to 200 copies**. White Bear is a classy package too, nice understated cover, good art and a huge poster/lyric sheet – it really does look the part, recalling all those same venerable Brit-rock ports of call as the band’s sound does, Bad Company, Free, Humble Pie and, even, Reef.
Opener ‘Three Bulleits’, their spelling not mine, swaggers in with a certain stomp of a rhythm and trading on Phil Campbell’s gruff, melodic voice which is pretty much The Temperance Movement’s best weapon. The guitars circle and churn without really drawing blood, which isn’t a good thing in context. ‘Three …’ is fine, but easily forgotten ten minutes later. Better by far is ‘Get Yourself Free’ which keeps the swagger and showcases a real swinging rhythm piloted by bassist Nick Fyffe, who was in Jamiroquai’s band for years. It is a great song with a great dusty, gutsy sound harking back again to Bad Company at their least diluted.
The next few tracks on White Bear are less successful, ‘A Pleasant Peace I feel’ garbing itself in some atmospherics borrowed from U2, sung beautifully of course but without enough of a song in there. ‘Modern Massacre’^ rocks it up in a commendably raw fashion and whilst the guitars do slice and dice, again I’m wanting more of a song behind it all. The title track gives us what we crave though, in spades, with a side order of slide, some real dramatic dynamics and a chaotic guitar solo on top, much more memorable.
Best of all though and I’d say by far the best track The Temperance Movement have cut so far, is ‘Oh Lorraine’ which was a real revelation for me. It’s built on an almost baggy beat from Fyffe and drummer Damon Wilson and the vocal melodies and production is just spot on. Basically what we have here is a kick ass rock band really discovering their groove and putting down a superb organically sourced dance track, I can and have listened to this on repeat over and over and over. This is what I wanted, something that sculpts something very new/now from old components. In fact it reminds me a lot of the band Music and that really is a compliment^*. Here’s a live version from 2 years ago with a much more Faces and bluegrass feel:
After that the pickings get a little less choice again although I quite like the bluesier ‘The Sun & Moon Roll Around Too Soon’ which really reminds me of a John Lennon song I can’t quite place.
So overall White Bear is good, but a little frustrating because I feel it wouldn’t need too much more to drag a great album out of this band, all the components are right there and the band are just too good to be praised for having three great songs on an album. Maybe their third will fill up my mighty stomach of rock!^^.
PS: I deliberately didn’t re-read Deke’s review of this until now – he had the advantage of seeing them kick it live too.
*although that might be because the vinyl has two bonus tracks.
**well, excitement and the fact that I’m an easily manipulated spineless sucker for whatever tidbits record labels deign to throw in my direction.
^why does it always take me three goes to spell that word?!
^*remember them? bunch of kids from Leeds? made this beauty (and one of my fave videos in the process):
Although I might just like this one so much because I dance like the singer does.
^^probably best not pursue this metaphor any further!