Solo projects: the brainteasers of the world of pop music, they can be perplexing in the extreme. Listening to solo records has a tendency to devolve into a game of spot the difference. Where are the similarities to the artist’s previous work? Where have they attempted to deviate and daringly out some individuality? And listening to luke temple’s latest record, Good Mood Fool, is no exception.
Luke Temple is probably better known as driving force behind a bunch of naturalised Brooklyners known as Here We Go Magic (HWGM). This may lead you to believe that the music Luke Temple makes in his own time, when he runs off to the woods with the drummer of Dirty Projectors and the keyboardists of Glass Ghost in tow, would be vaguely similar to this previous outfit.
Well, yes – and, then again, no.
Perhaps, when you press play on Good Mood Fool, you might expect to be greeted with familiar, melancholy strains resembling the HWGM hit ‘Alone But Moving’, or perhaps an unashamedly follk-ish stomper like ‘Ophelia’ from Temple’s last solo album. But you’d be wrong. What you actually get is ‘Hard Working Hand’, an homage to ’80s pop that is so on-the-nail, you instantly feel as if you have been transported into an episode of Miami Vice. (Why don’t people wear pastel suits more often? It just feels so natural.)
Now for the compare and contrast: this is not exactly what you would expect from Temple, but then again, you can see where is coming from when you consider the synth-heavy interludes and the slap-bass that punctuate HWGM’s A Different Ship. You see, spot the difference.
After you’ve had one listen, the game of musical Where’s Wally comes to an end and you can see the album on its own merits. Luke Temple has talked about this album in terms of following through on clichés to create something different, and this he does. ‘Florida’ is a slice of blue-eyed soul, with rich scrunchy harmonies and synth-strings, and the whole album resonates with a glow of retro nostalgia. Does any song on Good Mood Fool sound unique? No. But likeable? Yes. Likeable in that all too familiar, “Where have I heard this before?”, “Play it again, Sam” kind of way. Likeable in a great way.
‘Jessica Brown’ and ‘Katie’ are probably the most innovative tracks on the record. Temple’s trademark flair for borrowing a familiar format and injecting it with a strong does of personality shines through most clearly with these two numbers. And, although you might not realise it, it is actually this gift for subtlety revitalising a tired pop formula that makes this album hang together. Somehow, Good Mood Fool does manage to live up to its name. You do end up grinning like an idiot having heard all your favourite ’80s pop clichés intelligently repackaged for the twenty-first century. Much like a Full English and a strong cup of tea, Luke Temple wipes away the hangover from what you might otherwise call pop’s misguided choices (including the bubble perm and Kylie-and-Jason collabs), leaving only the happy memories of dancing to ’80s classics like it’s 1999.