THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT 'White Bear'
Release Date: 15th January 2016
With 2013's self-titled debut album The Temperance Movement joined the growing ranks of bands bringing a contemporary twist to Faces/Black Crowes style bluesy rock n' roll, delivering an astoundingly good album and setting the bar high for subsequent work.
The band have pretty much been permanently on the road, and the ten tracks on this offering were formed from jams at soundcheck, a very attractive proposition considering the strength and passion of their live shows.
Guitarist Luke Potashnick left the band in September 2015 citing a desire to concentrate on studio activities, this was after 'White Bear' was recorded so he still features here, maintaining the same lineup as for the previous album, including co-producer Sam Miller.
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It's a good album, it really is. And there are some real high spots including interplay between the guitarists, some very striking vocal effects used and a special award for getting the lyrics “psycho sexual mind warp” into a ballad.
The Temperance Movement are excellent songwriters too, with an ear for a groove and refraining from over-indulgence, letting the songs have a clear voice. Early Stones and Faces are clear influences, they choose their company wisely.
The album itself opens with the accessible 'Three Bulleits' which has a great hook. The track is very glam rock, and if not quite conjuring up the spicy kick of the bourbon it is named after, it's got smooth edges like a Manhattan – and that's a classic cocktail which no-one can complain about. It's a great opener, the guitar solo with the descending motif that closes the bridge is lush.
'Battle Lines' and 'Oh Lorraine' are outstanding tracks and the closest to the gutsy essence of The Temperance Movement we have come to love.
There is a "but" on this album, however. The first record was made almost as an afterthought, a product of five friends hanging out and seeing what happened. 'White Bear' is a proper organised production, with the intent of making an album. Whether by accident or design this one feels a little more mainstream, when I was hoping for a lot more letting loose.
'A Pleasant Peace I Feel' sums the issue up perfectly with both title and song itself. Starting and ending with a distinctive bass riff, building to the big chorus, it's a track that should have been immense, but just misses the mark by being, yes, pleasant – when it ought to claw at your emotions and try to take your face off.
And there are several moments like this – what happened to the grit, the hard edge we experience during the live shows and were introduced to in the previous album? It's there in places but all a bit airbrushed and polished in others, illustrated by too many tracks where Phil Campbell's emotive vocals start off nicely high in the mix but have a tendency to get buried and smoothed out in the choruses.
Even with the great moments on the album 'White Bear' left me thinking that it was all a bit too safe, almost polite in places – not a word I would have previously associated with The Temperance Movement. It's an album you can take home to meet your mum, and that's not what you want.
Undoubtedly they still have it live, the new songs seen on tour and in the promotional performances done so far reassuringly show this.
While this is a good album with not a bad song on it, the way it is presented gives it too much of a generic, mass-market feel. I hope that they take it up a notch for the next one and capture on record the verve, excitement and in-your-face out-and-out rock n'roll that is the unique essence of The Temperance Movement.