Review Summary: An interesting effort from a completely obscure band
If you look up ‘obscure’ in a dictionary, I guarantee you’ll find a picture of this album, and for that matter, band. Templar were a Canuck rock band that released this album in 2001 to absolute apathy, and promptly disappeared off of the musical map. It’s bizarre when you think about it, as the formula is right there: the band members themselves are quite photogenic, their admittedly really cool video for first single “Here We Go” was plastered all over MuchMusic (Canada’s MTV) at the time, the band toured relentlessly all over the country, and their sound fit snuggly onto rock radio. But the music biz, especially Canada’s, is an extreme gamble. For bands like Alexisonfire or the Matthew Good Band, they just click with the populace and become successful. For others, it just doesn’t happen. There’s no rhyme or reason to it; it's just the way it is.
Templar’s one and only disc, “Under The Sun”, was one that was in constant rotation for a time in my discman (remember those?). In my developing love for all things musical, it was one of the first albums I ever bought with my crummy paycheck from McDonald’s. I do have fond memories of blasting this CD out loud while playing Nintendo 64, but I’m here to give an objective review to this nostalgic favorite of mine that I recently dug up. The bottom line is, does it hold up, and was it all that good in the first place?
Templar’s style is a familiar one with a twist. They essentially play top 40 alternative rock, but to help stand out from the pack, Templar employs plenty of electronic and spacey sound effects into their sound on top of the occasional tune using loops and beats. The use of electronic noises would imply an industrial-ish sound, but that’s not the case at all. This album is chock full of hooks and bombastic choruses- think of a light version of Filter or Econoline Crush.
The great thing about Under The Sun is that while the band makes no pretenses about writing poppy tunes for radio play, they manage to sneak in an original idea here and there once in awhile. Track 2, “Ground FX Machine”, has a great dance beat and groove-based bass lines, and lyrics about, as far as I can tell, oral sex, whilst track 3, “Megatryp”, has a well-done rap verse that sounds like rap and not an attempt at rap in the middle of an otherwise generic pop rock song. It’s these neat little touches that help Templar stand out from the pack of similar sounding bands, and dare I say, make them sound a little innovative. But to be honest with you, all of those techno noises don’t really add anything to the songs, it’s more like dressing for a salad.
Those two songs aren’t really representative of the album as a whole. The opening tune, “The Need”, is a great way to start the album. It’s an electronic powered and aggressive rock tune that’ll get your heart pumping, with fantastic vocals by singer Murray Yates. “My Direction” is a sappy ballad obviously made to make those quivering female loins explode, but it’s a listenable and decent song for this caliber. Despite the techno loops and synthesized violins, it wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack to She’s All That.
If you were to get a feel for this band’s overall style, I’d suggest you start with the first single, Here We Go, which was a good choice for the single. In between the loud guitars and cheesy lyrics (Example: “It’s just another sunny day in the afternoon/And the skies are turning gray/And your eyes are blue/Here we go!), there are propulsive electronics that back the song up, on top of some decent vocals.
The album fails in a few departments. For reasons that defy reasoning, there’s an “extended version” of single Here We Go added as the last track to the album. Extended my ass, this has a whopping 20 seconds added to the song. You get to hear the exact same song twice, for no reason, similar to “Creep” being played twice on Pablo Honey by Radiohead. The lyrics to this album are for the most part awkward and elementary, don’t expect brilliant and thought provoking poetry, or even passable generic rock prose.
There’s also a fairly weak track in “Uncontained”, a stab at, believe it or not, 80’s gothic music, with plenty of angsty and angry lyrics. It sounds really weird and out of place, even for an album of this type. A noble effort for experimentation and attempting to do something different, but a failure nonetheless, and completely out of place on an album like this.
Some of the synths and electronics also sound extremely cheesy and detract from the songs. "Make It Happen" has what sounds like robot or spaceship noises in the middle of one of the 'harder' (loose term) songs on the album. I couldn't help but laugh at how angry this song was trying to be with what sounded like a Transformer blasting a laser in the background. Sounded more like video game music. And then you have the album's proper closer, "Galaxy", whose title would imply plenty of space noises, but alas, this is one of the few songs without any gimmick effects and it's a straight up rock song. This is a song which would've actually benefited from the band's trademark noises; as it stands, it's just another rock song.
I guess for a simultaneously typical and atypical rock CD, it's an interesting effort. Some of the songs are no doubt good and energetic, and others are way too cheesy or out of place. It does sound a little dated and even, dare I say it, at times juvenile, but as a forgotten and unknown CD, it's still a noble attempt at doing something different with something familiar. I'm giving it a 3 for overall effort.
As a side note: the band disbanded after this album's failure. Singer Murray Yates would go on to have a small level of success with his next band, "Forty Foot Echo", whose music was featured in several hit films and TV shows.
Also, for those who care, there's a hidden cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" at the very end of the CD.