Photo by Dylan Chorneau.
Temperance League — Why's It Gotta Be So Hard
“Temperance League’s most polished and affecting LP chronicles the day-to-day grind of a tight-knit band in the face of long odds that only get longer as the months and years roll by. Like the blue collar songs of Petty and Springsteen that inspire them, quiet desperation infuses their music — work a job, write and rehearse like another job, then channel it all into that night’s “magnificence,” leader Bruze Hazel sings on the title track. Hazel’s gruff, desperate and determined vocals embody the band’s ethic and sound: resigned one moment (“While the City Sleeps”) and defiant the next, as when the one percent “come back for more” (“The Gap”). In the end, it’s only home — family, friends, Charlotte, your band — that you can rely on. “Can you feel it?” Hazel asks over soothing synth strings and Rickenbacker jangle, “It feels like home.”
Temperance League has been overturning the old-guys-can’t-rock notion since solidifying as a sextet three years ago; and they’re doing so at a pace that should shame many younger acts, kicking out blitzkrieg jams on a relentless basis.
The band’s singles and 3 LPs – released through their own Like, Wow! label—were recorded with famed producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement, Wilco, Lets’ Active) at his Fidelitorium Studio in Kernersville, NC. The songs channel the band’s forebears, including ery elements of the MC5, Ramones, Springsteen, Tom Petty and even the Byrds, all in a vintage-sounding blend of swagger and catharsis. But what sounds raw and feral belies the craftsmanship that’s gone into these tracks. The two-guitar attack of Shawn Lynch and Chad Wilson tears through muscular rhythms-delivered by drummer David Kim and bassist Eric Scott and ably decorated by keyboardist Jay Garrigan. Hazel, meanwhile, shouts out common-man aphorisms and left-leaning agit-prop like the possessed ospring of Joe Strummer and The Boss. Decades spent lugging it out in the service industry provides him with plenty of narrative vigor and vitriol.
As energized as their albums sound, it’s live that the Temperance League really plugs into its strengths. The live chops are formidable, having been honed in some of the Queen City’s best bands of recent years, including Lou Ford, Benji Hughes, Les Dirt Clods, the Fence Lions and Buschovski, among others. It’s a veteran lineup, in other words, playing music we traditionally associate with younger generations.
But while youthful rockers and punk energy and inspiration in the hunger to make their mark, this band is powered by something maybe even more urgent-the ticking clock.