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Luke Temple
Good Mood Fool Matthew Foster , November 26th, 2013 09:13

These days, all anyone does is talk to me about Downton Abbey. I walk into Londis and the shopkeeper says to me, "Did you catch Downton last night?" I mutter a half-hearted 'no', but he isn’t listening. He just wants to talk to me about Downton Abbey, like everyone else does. "Doesn’t Julian Fellowes do a truly wonderful job in exposing the hang-ups and double standards of the British class system?" the shopkeeper asks, as he changes the till roll. Perhaps he does, I reply, but I really couldn’t say; I haven’t watched Downton Abbey. He frowns, and as I leave the shop, milkless and despondent, a stray scrap of yesterday’s Observer hits me in the face. I peel it off, and a double page spread asks: "When Will This Downton Government Wake Up To The Reality Of Britain Today?" I hurl the soggy sheet to the ground, and as I forlornly trudge home, a dog in a top hat growls at me.

Alone in my room, I hear the Downtonny wind howling through trees, trees as proud and well-defined as a character from Downton. I reach for the record player. The needle drops onto the latest solo release from Luke Temple, the eccentric singer behind fidgety folk-poppers Here We Go Magic, and at last, I feel free. ‘Hard Working Hand’ bursts into life, an opening track so sun-dappled and direct that all thoughts of Downton are, for a little while, banished. It bounces along irresistibly on a low-budget reggae shuffle, Temple’s child-like, silky smooth voice lamenting another day of “six in the morning, dead of winter” toil. It’s gorgeous, and a bold declaration of independence from the Here We Go Magic day job. Then, somewhere, the plane from Top Gun fires a load of missiles into a shoulder pads factory, and the sexually obsessed ‘Katie’ emerges from the explosion. Some chopped-up, spoken word siren loops in the background while the guy who once howled "Eat like a cow! Get fat like a PIG!" sings about a girl with a "mean body" over a bassline that brings to mind Leonard Cohen’s ‘Jazz Police’ or Gary Numan in his ‘I Can’t Stop’ years. Yeah, it’s that good.

Make no mistake, I think to myself as I rearrange my sock drawer, Good Mood Fool - with its album art pretty much a direct lift of Paul Simon’s ‘Still Crazy…’ - is yet another record released this decade that gazes fondly at the go-go eighties. Such backwards-looking might be enough to put some people off giving the album a spin, but it’s also pretty hard to think of a sound further removed from the studious Nigel Godrich-produced hypno-folk of Here We Go Magic’s most recent offering, A Different Ship. I reckon people would be missing out if they dismissed this album as nothing more than loving pastiche.

I pop downstairs to make a cup-a-soup and think about how the sweet ‘Those Kids’ is a trundling joy, lamenting pudgy middle-aged tastemakers trying to tell the kids what’s good for them. It’s a track that HWGM may well have embellished with a five-minute freak-out, but Temple plays it straight here, and its all the better for it. Similarly, ‘Terrified Witness’ disarms me with its AM radio stylings, before sneaking in a thoroughly unconventional lyric that seems to be about Hiroshima. The cup-a-soup goes down a treat, and I notice that only occasionally, as on the frenetic ‘Love Won’t Receive’, does Temple fall back on the kind of music he’s made his name with. But then, as I chew my reviewer’s pencil, I think about how the record’s spartan approach - three guys fleshing out nine tracks written by just one man - sees Temple doing more with less, an approach that served him well on HWMG’s still-wonderful debut, and I really can’t deny that there’s a welcome sense of fun running through Good Mood Fool that's been missing for some time. In fact, I’m all set to say that Good Mood Fool is my favourite Temple-related record since the HWGM debut.

That's when something awful happens. You see, there’s a track on this album called ‘Jessica Brown Findlay’, which had seemed nice enough, its goofy, tom-heavy percussion and pitch-bendy synths backing up a slightly unsettling vocal about drooling over some inflight movie star’s "deli counter chest". The track is fine, but it leaves me with one final bit of research to do before I file the review and head off to Yoga.

In the end, it’s Wikipedia that delivers the crushing blow:

"Jessica Brown Findlay (born 14 September 1989) is an English actress, best known for playing Lady Sybil Crawley in ITV's Downton Abbey."

When I wake up, chained to a wall, Julian Fellowes and the dog with the top hat are both laughing at me and they won't stop.