Monday, September 30, 2013
The Temperance Movement - Saving Rock 'N' Roll, One Song, One Show At A Time
The Temperance Movement is fronted by Phil Campbell, and he has it all - he sings like a lost remnant from Carnaby Street circa 1968, he writes like he's lived a life that hasn't always went his way, but made for great stories, looks like a movie star, and has surrounded himself with a wickedly divine band of rock 'n' rollers. The band has just released their debut album, and it's an automatic for the inevitable year end top tens - a killer record.
The band is straight up, straight ahead, and what you see is what you'll love. Exuberant guitars gush out of the speakers as their frontman tells his tales, and the rhythm section pushes and pulls just right - no click tracks in sight, no this bunch sounds like they set up, laid it down and headed back to the pub for another set. Tasty riffing is the order of the day, and the production is as crisp and clean as a summer morning. Great guitar tones are to be found from stem to stern, and I'm not really looking for one, but they have not a chink in their mighty armor.
When the opening chords of Only Friend come lurching out of your speakers you're going to smile - trust me on this. Pungent chords on the left, tasty fills and leads on the right, the guitars could not sound more right as they provide the platform for Campbell's soul drenched voice. It's so thrilling for me to hear a guitar team playing off of, and against one another with such grace and style - Paul Sayer and Luke Potashnick listen to one another, that is very evident, and they create a tapestry of rock that brings great joy to my heart.
Ain't No Telling is dirty and biting, as the guitars kick up the grit, the rhythm section digs in, and an unholy combination of The Stones and AC/DC isn't beyond the imagination. Campbell sounds like he's being chased by the devil, his demons, and every angry woman he's ever crossed.
The band steps off the gas a bit on Pride, as their singer weaves a tale of love gone wrong, chapter 999. Nothing new, but it's seldom done this well - rock balladry that would not sound out of place on one of Rod's early solo efforts. Nick Fyffe's bassline is sublime as he pulsates in and out of the verses with subtle fills and rock solid walks up and down the neck - taste, taste, taste - I'm going to keep saying it, as this material just drips with it. The guitars finally step up, Damon Wilson kicks his kick drum into gear and the whole thing soars into the blissful heavens of rock.
Chunky chording rings in Be Lucky, and it brings to mind the best of rock Atlanta style, as the band evokes thoughts of The Black Crowes and Georgia Satellites - strong song craft joined by - yes, tasty rock from wall-to-wall. No wonder my UK friends are telling me that this bunch is saving rock and roll one show, one song at a time.
The speed kicks in with a fuzzed riff and a double time beat as Midnight Black comes bouncing off the walls. Dance hall rock of the nth degree, as Campbell sounds like he's struggling to keep up with his band, and running as fast as he can to get out ahead of the chapter of verse he's expounding. One can only imagine the excitement this one provides in a live setting.
The Temperance Movement respects rock history - you can hear the lessons in the grooves, the changes, and their sumptuous melodies. Chinese Lanterns is country via the UK, and it's as sweet as early Elton John - Campbell has tremendous skills in the ways of phrasing, vibrato, and passion. He never sounds false, it all sounds like it straight from his heart onto his sleeve.
The boys get rootsy on Know For Sure - the riffs get swampier, but Campbell keeps it between the white lines with his Marriott inflected howlings. Again, the two guitars continue their joust with some sweet slide stylings meshing nicely with the jagged, plucked chord work. When the slide solo kicks in, some crazy cool counterpoint commences, and the guitars steal the show, if briefly.
Heavy riffing commences with Morning Riders - this one is almost Zep-ish in it's groove. This reminds me of Michael Des Barres best days with Silverhead in the mid-70s. One foot in the blues, on foot on the pedal. The chorus is as catchy as everything else on display here, and Phil Campbell shares the spotlight, and plays well with others.
Strummed minor chords always capture my heart, mind, and spirit, and Lovers And Fighters is sublime - when you can make one of these ballads work this well, you have earned your stripes. That high lonesome note that hangs over a backbeat and a bassline is sweet as tea on a July evening. Graham Parsons meets Keith somewhere after midnight.
The drums swing out on Take It Back, and the war whoop vocals are perfect, as is the loping bass figure that Fyffe weaves through the tune. These fellas know high style, and they ease in and out of minor genre shifts like they've been doing it for decades. No wonder this band is bold enough to let a powerhouse outfit like The Graveltones open their shows - they're fearless, and they know it.
Smoldering is a smoky piece that is slower than molasses, and twice as sweet. The soul of Ronnie Lane seems to be hanging over the best of the UK these days, as the ghost of The Faces watches over. Did I mention that Campbell has the voice of a devilish angel?
Tremolo guitar to end an album? Yes, please - this late in the set I can almost hear the tubes cooking in the back of the amps, as the boys wrap up the record and put it to bed. Serenity finds Campbell finally finding his peace, and he's earned it with this, the performance of a lifetime. What a nice way to set sail into the sunset.
The Temperance Movement are what I've termed 'a band of hope.' I've set forth on a mission that goes by the name of Rock Ain't Near Dead™, and as long as there are great debut albums by bands as great as The Temperance Movement, indeed, rock ain't near dead.
God bless The Temperance Movement.