After the release of Here We Go Magic’s latest effort, the Nigel Godrich produced A Different Ship, frontman Luke Temple jumped back into the studio to indulge in a playful new direction not found in his band’s discography or his three cerebral folk solo offerings. Bringing only the bare essentials with him, Temple recorded Good Mood Fool using just a bass, a drum machine, a Juno 1 synth, and the instrument that carries the record—his voice. When Temple is singing with Here We Go Magic, his soft vocals provided an extra layer to the band’s highly-textured sound, rather than acting as a driving force. But, on Good Mood Fool, his voice takes center stage and is wrapped in a myriad of joyful ‘80s pastiche.
Extra-funky bass drives “Katie”, a danceable ode to a girl “with a mean body,” seductive samples of a woman’s voice and dramatic keyboard blasts laying the groundwork. Even though it’s a great single, it plays like a time capsule dug up after being deposited in 1982. The second single, “Florida”, sounds more like a Mayer Hawthorne track than any Here We Go Magic cut, taking Temple’s soulful, delicate croon to new heights. On “Those Kids”, an intro à la Michael Jackson’s Thriller hit “Billie Jean” furthers his ‘80s motif so much that Temple even sings about MTV playing music for “the kids.”
While Good Mood Fool is full of light, soulful tunes, the bass-loaded “Jessica Brown Findlay” dives into more experimental territory, with Temple channeling his inner Thom Yorke over spastic drum beats and erratic synths.
With only 9 songs, Good Mood Fool makes up for its brevity with vibrant, colorful but occasionally varied tracks. The frequent throwbacks to the ‘80s can be tiresome and not all of its experiments fully flesh out, like the theatrical, Styx-like harmonies opening “Love Won’t Receive”. Despite this, Temple is a perfectly capable soul singer with a penchant for luscious hooks, a musician who approaches his influences with an unbridled enthusiasm and almost entirely avoids the cheese and cliché found within them.
Essential tracks: “Katie”, “Florida”, and “Sue”