REVIEW: Band Of Skulls – “Sweet Sour”

[Feb. 21, 2012 – Vagrant Records // Find it at: Insound | iTunes]


Nearly three years removed from their original debut, Southampton rock trio Band Of Skulls are still snapping snares and soliciting guitars with too much soul as their new LP, Sweet Sour, is a casket of their trademarks. For the past 12 months, rock and roll has seen this new wave, post-punk climate storm in, and the two-dudes-plus-one-girl outfit still have an authoritative voice. They’re still loud. They’re still sparking a fire in the eyes of anyone listening. And it’s still all very ambitious, it’s just Band Of Skulls have made it more rich. Take “The Devil Takes Care Of His Own” for example; a few songs in on the record, it continues to ordinarily channel a Black Rebel Motorcycle-esque swagger (like the teaser “Wanderluster”) but is pumped with a bit more bravado – the type that peels off Led Zeppelin’s song structures – letting a chorus wrangle you in with intrepid alt rock. It’s the same kind that floats about in the barrage of rhythms on “You’re Not Pretty..” or the garage style of “Lies”, a recording that rests somewhere between The Kills and The Dead Weather. Despite all of this, Sweet Sour still contains an unforeseen sweet side.

Rather than keep the blood pumping, Russell Marsden, Matt Hayward and Emma Richardson glue together softer arrangements, that carry a nostalgic pop feel, often feeling more timid than dreamy (“Lay My Head Down”, “Hometowns”), despite a heavy push by the pulse of drums and more gentle vocals. Part of it could be due to the group’s better-than-average picking; overlapping their tones with lines such as “We are drifting on the deep sea” isn’t exactly unifying as it should be. What matters however is how Band Of Skulls are steering towards balancing both sides of their music; compare it to any rock album and it’s easy to note how well the record’s opener (“Sweet Sour”) compliments its conclusion (“Close To Nowhere”). One wouldn’t expect a howling four-minute contusion to befriend a four-minute modern 90s’-esque lullaby about holding on, but it does. With the album on repeat, and the quiver of strings alongside Marsden’s seductive swoon kicking back in, the realization is simple: the band have manipulated a sound with complications and growth. The result may be a simple follow-up, which some may amateurishly call “an acceptable sophomore album”, but it is a raging concept of alternative rock.

Download: “Devil Takes Care Of It’s Own”, “Close To Nowhere”

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