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The Temperance Movement: White Bear

Nuanced blues rockers’ follow-up to their acclaimed 2013 debut.

It’s fair to say The Temperance Movement are something of a throwback. It’s hardly surprising that the Rolling Stones invited the band to support them – they inhabit the eternal soundworld of the sleazy 60s and soaraway 70s, of Eric Clapton and Argent, of tight songs and tight trousers.

Still, even a pathological sworn enemy of traditional rock’n’roll would have to concede that The Temperance Movement do what they do with a rare and exquisite panache. They’re no mere barroom honkers.

Much of this might have to do with the provenance of lead singer Phil Campbell, who comes from a family of preachers. It isn’t just the fervour he brings but also a grasp of the impressive skills of a good evangelist, the art of persuading and raising emotion. The group are no anti-intellectuals either – the title of the album is a quote from Dostoevsky’s Winter Notes On Summer Impressions: “Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

This rare sensibility subtly sculpts, informs and underpins The Temperance Movement and their decision-making, and it means they’re never merely copying, even when they precisely evoke past golden rock ages. At times, in this respect, it’s like The Darkness but with more passion than pastiche.

Opener Three Bulleits is a case in point, all clattering raw fuzz, recalling Lennon in Revolution mode. Campbell exercises his lozenge-averse vocal style to even greater effect on the unfortunately titled Modern Massacre. Magnify, with its clarion call to ‘all believers’, shows Campbell’s ability to convert the water of religious fervour into the wine of the rock variety.

A Pleasant Peace I Feel demonstrates guitarist Paul Sayer and co’s sheer dynamic range, showing expert restraint before piling in with everything, including the kitchen sink. The Sun And Moon Roll Around Too Soon again recalls late Lennon but also early Fall, specifically Spectre Vs Rector.

However, The Temperance Movement aren’t merely retro – the tangential reverb on I Hope I’m Not Losing My Mind shows their willingness to use contemporary studio enhancement to touch up their visions. White Bear, in its expertise and clarity, feels refreshing, like the shock of the new, despite its traditionalism. Better still, you feel they’ve got a lot more in the locker still to come.


David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.