Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Record label: Vagrant
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Some couples finish each other's sentences. Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson, this English trio's guitarist and bassist, take that tendency into The Shining-twins territory, reciting most of their second disc's clenched-teeth lyrics in a sort of deadpan harmony. Delectably gloomy ballads like "Hometowns," where the two practically strain to out-blasé each other, might actually give you goosebumps.
You won’t read many reviews of this new Band of Skulls album that utilize the word “original. ” Because the British power trio’s songs are so simple and unpretentious, falling squarely in the standard guitar-bass-drums format, it’s unsurprising that their majestic rock conjures a lot of easy reference points. Head-crushing opener “Sweet Sour” features a sludgey, Sabbath-esque hammer-on riff; epic closer “Close to Nowhere” finds frontman Russell Marsden channeling his inner Billy Corgan with a torrent of clean, trippy guitar lines.
Band Of SkullsSweet Sour[Electric Blues / Psycollective; 2012]By Daniel Griffiths; February 13, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt’s an upsetting thought anytime I say or think it, but we’re living in a post-White Stripes world. It’s either a testament to Jack and Meg White’s unique vision that no-one has really stepped up and taken over from them, or it’s a sad eye-opener into the state of affairs of the garage rock that characterised the beginning of the 21st Century. Sure, there’s The Black Keys, but recently they’ve been leaving the rawness behind and embraced soul and, dare I say it, pop.
While 2009 debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey saw them heralded alongside the likes of the Kills, the Subways, and the Duke Spirit as the U. K. 's answer to the White Stripes, Southampton trio Band of Skulls' second effort, Sweet Sour, reflects the contrasting nature of its title by embracing a more wistful melodic side alongside their more familiar scuzzy garage rock sound.
Like jeans, mashed potato and sex, the brand of hard-worn Britrock peddled by this south coast trio never has, and never will, fall in or out of fashion. On the Monday after the endtimes, rest assured that the racks at your local indie store will be plentifully stocked with albums just like ‘Sweet Sour’. And therein lies [a]Band Of Skulls[/a]’ curse and blessing.
Talk about timing. This Southampton trio are so committed to southern garage-blues that they have thicketlike beards to prove it, and thus should be poised to benefit from the Black Keys' bringing that sound back into fashion. Or they would if this second album were full of the gnarls and knots that characterised their debut. Instead, they've swept away much of the sediment and found a sweeter sound seemimgly designed to make them candidates for the early-evening slot at the summer festivals.
I remember passing the Band of Skulls’ tent as evening set in at Bonnaroo last summer, thinking “hot damn, they sound amazing” while trudging off to another show. Now I sincerely wish I stopped to receive an adequate face melting upon hearing Sweet Sour, the Southampton, England trio’s second LP that sizzles with muscle-driven, sludgy honest-to-goodness rock. A British powerhouse borrowing from the best early aughts sounds, Band of Skulls’ clean tone and unabashed take on rock positively scorches at every point on the album.
If you’re a band creating a bluesy, garage rock sound, then you should be prepared for the comparisons to Jack White and White Stripes. Of course, it wasn’t surprising then that the first album by Band of Skulls brought plenty of these comparisons—from the heavy riffs to guitar tone, Band of Skulls tried to emulate the swagger of the White Stripes. Although more work needed to be done, the potential was there to fill in the void that the White Stripes left.
At the end of the day, there’s an unadulterated titillation at the core of rock and roll to which we will inevitably return. Yes, there’s solace and satisfaction to be found in the triumphant spirit of chamber pop and the soul-bearing ruminations of folk, but it’s only a matter of time before we find ourselves once again held captive by the seductive charm of monstrous guitar riffs, percolating verses, and placating choruses. Nirvana and the Pixies famously championed the formula more than 20 years ago, and Jack White has become its most recent ambassador as the efficacious mastermind behind the White Stripes, Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather.
Band of SkullsSweet Sour(Pias Recordings)Rating: As its title would suggest, Sweet Sour is a study in juxtaposition. The sophomore release from British trio Band of Skulls is a play on soft and heavy, melody and noise, and despite its idiosyncrasies comes together to form a thoughtful and cohesive work that can just as easily be listened to start to finish as it can one track at a time. This time around, vocal harmonies between Russell Marsden (guitar, vocals) and Emma Richardson (bass, vocals) often take center stage, with the band’s trademark crunchy guitar riffs serving more as a backdrop than a focal point.
Big old heaps of bombast litter album two from the grizzled Southampton rockers. Ben Hewitt 2012 Setting sail from Southampton with a head stuffed full of American dreams may seem a treacherous endeavour – most famously, it’s the same city which waved the Titanic off on its maiden voyage across the pond – but natives Band of Skulls were never likely to sink in similar fashion. Their 2009 debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey seemed far more suited to the down and dirty vibe of the Midwest than the south of England; a slab of whiskey-soaked rock‘n’roll resplendent with iron-girded riffs and sweetly sexy melodies.
Around a decade ago Band Of Skulls would have had to have come from Detroit, so seamless is their connection to that whole garage rock revival that featured The White Stripes, The Von Bondies and The Detroit Cobras. As it is though, victims of existential injustice, the three piece are Southampton natives and the raw, intense sound of guitars is as out of favour as the mini-disc or 4-4-2. It is a changed world; the garage rock landscape of 2011 is something of a barren wasteland, dominated by the monolithic bluesy presence of The Black Keys.As the saying goes “If you can’t beat them join them”, well Band Of Skulls are soon to be playing a venue near you in support of Auerbach and Carney duo.
This isn't so much a review as a PSA. Don't get superhigh before listening to this LP. Oh, right, don't get high at all, kids. Drugs are bad. But you especially don't want to do it to this UK trio's second album. It might seem like a good idea when the death-metal, minor-key dirge of the title ….