Album Review: TEMPOREX – Bowling

[NBI; 2021]

TEMPOREX is San Diego musician Joseph Flores. You may remember from his 2017 hit “Nice Boys”, which garnered a lot of love and play on Instagram and in particular TikTok. That song – and the entirety of TEMPOREX’s previous release, Care – traded in sweet but sickly bedroom pop. Those came out in his teenage years and, now in his early 20s, Flores does, to his credit, try to find new stylistic pop lanes in Bowling, his new album, while finding very few strikes to over the 10 tracks.

The record is purportedly inspired by 90s kids pop culture – Pee-Wee Herman, Rocko’s Modern Life, Rugrats – and the whole endeavour, admittedly, is akin to a sonic sugar rush hit: the production is vivid and gimmicky, wonky and wacky. TEMPOREX also wants to guide listeners through a full bowling game, and a lot of whether you’ll care for this album will depend on your inclination for such sparky conceptual work.

There’s a fine irony at play in Bowling: the references to 90s kids’ pop culture might make a lot of listeners feel old, but the sound of the album is also dated, in its own way. Although it’s more bright electronica than hazy lo-fi, TEMPOREX is still hugely indebted to the bubbly bedroom pop scene that followed Mac DeMarco in the last decade. “Nice Boys” fit very well back in 2017, certainly, but that these new songs sound so ancient already is a testament to how immensely fast music trends are currently progressing. It’s difficult to imagine many of Flores’ peers preferring this style over the manufactured yet sophisticated gloopy pop-punk movement spearheaded by the likes of Olivia Rodrigo right now.

Bowling starts with “Bad Pin”, which sounds like a song Triathalon might have considered releasing several years ago. He follows that with “Batter”, whose beginning sounds like a timid ripoff of DeMarco’s “Watching Him Fade Away”. The latter came from DeMarco’s 2017 album This Old Dog, and much of what Temporex does in Bowling is clearly influenced by it, from the twinkling but sincere keys in “Milton Post” and “Plastic Lester” to the R&B drums in “Delayed” and “GUI”. 

“U Open Up a Window” is the only time he comes close to replicating the endearing flavour of “Nice Boys”, but it comes too late, right at the album’s close. “Now step back, gonna roll the ball / When it hits the alley gonna knock them all / Pins down, that’s what’s up,” Flores sings earlier in the album on “New Lane”: if he’s ever to get even a spare as TEMPOREX, a lot of innovation has to occur on his next album.