Album Review: Band Of Skulls

sweet sour (electric blues recordings/ pias)

Having first come across Band Of Skulls at the 2010 student festival, Beach Break, where they performed tracks from their 2009 debut album, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, the band have now progressed onto playing in front of huge audiences on their headline international tour.

Slip-streaming the current resurgence in the 1970's heavy blues-rock style and playing on the success of the likes of The Black Keys and The Kills, the Southampton trio are definitely on the right path. However, their new album, Sweet Sour, provides few surprises, playing firmly on the side of caution throughout.

The title track, Sweet Sour opens with a bang; a pounding bass drum instantly followed by some Sabbath-esque guitar hammer-on's - a great first impression of the classic Rock influences and riff-heavy tracks to come. The contrast between distorted, guitar-driven choruses and the quieter, musically minimal verses is one of the album's fortes. The alternating dynamics and arrangements allow the female/male harmonising vocals of Marsden and Richardson to really shine through; a musical feature, which without, would expose a distinctly average quality to the album.

The record hints at the likes of Jack White and his days in The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, particularly with the first single from the album, The Devil Takes Care Of His Own; a deliciously authentic Southern execution from the UK South-Coasters. The second single, Bruises is a more melodic, tender affair with some gentle guitar plucking, and as expected, they dive into the chorus with full-blown guitar riffs and percussion.

Their grizzly sound is proficient and tight with slick production, perfect vocals in unison and catchy hooks, however I feel that the record falls down slightly with regards to the lyrics. Although the duetting vocals are a refreshing lift to the sludgy groove and glorious riffage, the actual lyricism can get lost behind this wall of sound. However, when this vocal focus is centred (in the ballad Pink Floyd style tracks like Lay My Head Down and Hometowns) the urge for something more begins to creep in.

For me, the album has two stand-out tracks; You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On and Wunderluster. The former featuring an a high-octane, fast paced, energetic riff-explosion introduction with darker, more sinister chords. It's unbelievably catchy and will no doubt satisfy even the stuffiest of Rock critics. There's also a great, Zeppelin-esque solo thrown in there too. Wanderluster has a more 90's edge to it with a vintage,jangly guitar intro repeated throughout the song. The lyrics and arrangement are simple, with delicate Prog-Rock embellishments and an unusual 7/8 time signature. Aside from the quirky timings, the track doesn't delve any deeper into the wondrous world of Prog.

Sweet Sour is a great album, if a little safe. There are many opportunities in which certain tracks could have been developed further, fully embracing their subtle hints of past musical eras and genres. Band of Skulls, although extremely accomplished at the music they produce, could perhaps benefit with tweaking their standard blues-rock formula in order to veer off the road of predictability. However, if you want a classic, riff-fuelled record, and that alone, then this will tick all the boxes.

You can listen to a stream of the album, below:

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