For a band whose original mission statement was to be the new Black Crowes, The Temperance Movement did a good job of not sticking to their own plan. Their second album, 2016’s stellar White Bear, gave their revivalist rock’n’soul a glinting contemporary edge. It was hardly the sound of a band going glitch techno, granted, but still a bold move from five men who looked like refugees from Ronnie Wood’s wardrobe.
On those terms, new album A Deeper Cut is a retreat to safer ground. Rather than the anthemic, indie-tinged leanings of its predecessor, it serves up a familiar mix of blues-rock swagger and soulful sensitivity. This reversion to type can be put down partly to the departure of original guitarist Luke Potashnick, the man largely responsible for pushing the band out of their comfort zone, shortly after the release of White Bear.
It appears that Potashnick’s departure didn’t so much precipitate a crisis as force the band to simply double down on what they do best. Opener Caught In The Middle struts in on the back of a tightly coiled guitar groove, a tactic which the band deploy throughout the record. There’s little of the willful sloppiness or self-indulgence of so many blues rock bands here – this is tight and precise but never dry or airless.
It helps that The Temperance Movement know the value of a good tune. Built-In Forgetter might have the worst title in recent memory, but it salvages itself from titular ignominy by erupting into a chorus of truly joyous proportions. Conversely, Another Spiral is a slow-burner that perfectly balances poise and emotional charge (the band definitely give good ballad – Children is the kind of weepie that Ryan Adams would give Gram Parsons’s right arm to write these days).
What helps even more is singer Phil Campbell. If there’s a better blue-eyed soul vocalist around right now, they’re keeping quiet. Campbell is alternately sandpaper-rough and honey-smooth, slipping effortlessly from the lung-busting testifyin’ of Love And Devotion to the restrained emoting of the plaintive title track. It’s an approach that Paul Rodgers perfected 50 years ago and few people have managed to pull off since. Campbell is a notable exception.
A Deeper Cut sounds too urgent to be a period piece – timeless rather than time-stamped, distinctly 2018 as opposed to 1968. The Temperance Movement seem to be comfortable with their place in the scheme of things. That original plan is back on track.