soundstreamsunday: “In the Wild Hills” by Red Temple Spirits

lhasaFor years, LA’s Red Temple Spirits were a tease, a psych rock ghost that once got a short write-up in Rolling Stone, which gave an address to write to if you wanted the album, an address for an obscure label that never wrote back. It was the pre-internet treasure map to sacred recordings process that was our siren’s call.  Guesswork, album reviews, dudes in record stores who’d gone to see Hendrix and never really come back.  From the description I read, this band was for me.  But for about five years, every record store I walked into got the question: “Red Temple Spirits?” and I would receive a shake of the head back. Along with Television Personalities, in the late 80s and early 90s they were my grail, a band whose records couldn’t seem to be found for love or money, as if they wanted it that way, ached to be left alone. Around 1993 I finally and gratefully scored a cassette of their 1989 album If tomorrow I were leaving for Lhasa I wouldn’t stay a minute more… (possibly from Austin’s Waterloo records, who had hooked me up with Television Personalities a couple years earlier too) and discovered the small window of hype Rolling Stone gave them was deserved.  A rockier, psychier version of the Cure, Red Temple Spirits was everything I had wanted the Cult to become after their album Love.  Possessing in William Faircloth a vocalist who channeled Syd Barrett and Robert Smith through songs that showed a clear sense of identity and sound, the two albums the band released were post-punk goth psychedelic sendups that captured one strain of late ’80s/early ’90s indie rock across the country.  Every scene had their version of this band, but being on the west coast gave the Red Temple Spirits greater context as part of that region’s psychedelic revival — I can easily place them with Opal and Shiva Burlesque and Rain Parade, Camper Van Beethoven and Thin White Rope and Screaming Trees. If in their day their music was nearly impossible to find, it is now widely available, and can have the legacy it’s long deserved.  “In the Wild Hills” is a favorite, a thunderous, trippy, tribal fantasy that works because it’s all in. The spirits never sleep.

Red Temple Spirits on Amazon

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