Friday, September 7, 2012

Temperance League unveils LP at free show

Charlotte rock quintet Temperance League starts its Friday afternoon with a performance at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Festival today before winding back across the state to headline its album release party at Snug Harbor tonight. It follows that gig up with another Saturday at NoDa’s Chop Shop, which hosts the mammoth three-day God Save the Queen City 2 festival.

While some bands might scoff at the mere travel or debate about oversaturating the market, Temperance League seems to take an old school approach - play. That old school philosophy permeates many aspects of the band, including its new self-titled LP. Yep, LP. The 11-track album is out on vinyl and digital download only. That’s just how the group rolls. It previously released a handful of 7” singles.

The sound of the new album follows that old school mentality while heading away from the group’s political garage rock beginnings and more in the direction of recent singles like “I Don’t Wanna"/“But I Have To.” While I absolutely love some of those early rabble rousers like “No Jobs/More War” and “Ain’t Nobody Listening,” the full-length comes across as a cohesive collection.

Like its previous singles the album was recorded by famed NC producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M.) at his Fidelitorium Studios in Kernersville. 

Frontman Bruce Hazel is frequently compared to Jersey’s favorite son and admitted influence Bruce Springsteen (Hazel also hails from there), and he puts his Bossiest foot forward on the opener “Pursuit of the Past” before reaching deeper into the rock n’ roll canon with the aforementioned combo of “I Don’t Wanna” and “But I Have To.” I could imagine a girl group like the Ronettes singing the former, while the latter rides a sort of `60s psychedelia groove as, if willing, Temperance League could offer a grittier take on the music of psychedelic movies like “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”

Along with Hazel, Temperance League includes an all-star lineup of locals in Shawn Lynch, Chad Wilson, David Kim, and Eric Scott. Its members are connected enough to the local music scene to draw a crowd, but to its credit those crowds keep returning as the group’s sound continues to evolve.

Although the record is deeply rooted in old rock n’ roll, classic garage rock, and the `60s, `70s and early `80s, it hits on so many different facets of those decades that it’s never stuck in one simple genre.  “(I) Dreamed Last Night” is a crooner that imagines Elvis fronting the Byrds.

“Your World” and “Homecoming” both connect to the sort of grand anthem that Springsteen does well and are elevated by the guitar work and “oooh, ah” style backing vocals. “Bigger Things” echoes that format by building tension and hope with a repeated melody. All of these elements seem to come into the play on the breakup track “Our Romance” (which is in the running along with “Your World” and “Homecoming” for my favorite). That song bridges jangle pop, Byrds-like harmonies, girl group arrangements, and that Boss-like longing that comes across in the sustain of a guitar phrase.

Appropriately “Moving Forward” (as well as “Don’t Give Up”) is probably the most contemporary track on the record with its distorted guitar and climbing feel.  

You can grab a copy and catch the band's free show Fridayat Snug Harbor with Mark Crozer & the Rels, Hungry Girl, and Loose Lugnuts or tomorrow during God Save the Queen City 2 at NoDa’s Chop Shop. Tickets for the latter are $15 or $30 for a weekend pass that includes performances from 40 bands. Or if you don't have a record player, the album is available for download here