Band Of Skulls

Sweet Sour

Written by: TL on 29/02/2012 17:09:29

Judging from the career trajectory one can read about so far, on Southampton trio Band Of Skull's wikipedia entry, they are among the hippest young bands you have likely not heard about yet. I'm here to change that, by speaking to you in detail about the band's recently released sophomore album "Sweet Sour", which was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales and released only eight short days ago via Electric Blues and Pias Recordings. On it the band, which consists of bassist/singer Emma Richardson, guitarist/singer Russell Marsden and drummer Matt Hayward, deliver ten tracks of indie/rock'n'roll that should go down well with fans of bands like The White Stripes, The Raveonettes and The Joy Formidable.

However, the one band that Band Of Skulls sound more like than any other however, is The Kills, to whom they are highly similar on the five out of ten songs in which they rock the hardest. Songs like opener "Sweet Sour" and highlight "The Devil Takes Care Of His Own" establishes the band's knack for wonderful dynamics, with the guitar/bass interplay at some times lurking like a subdued, threatening present behind the vocal harmonies, only to break out in outbursts of dirty, sweaty riffage of the badass kind you should know and appreciate if you're already a fan of The Kills - And all the while, the band makes sure to drag its pace with all the confidence and swagger of a room full of rockstars.

The way I see it though, Band Of Skulls have in "Sweet Sour" a record that is actually both more diverse and consistent than any of the 'Kills records I've heard - A record which has the pull to grab you by your ears and hold on for its first six out of ten tracks by the very least. The choruses are that catchy, the sense of timing is that good and furthermore, the way Marsden and Richardson manage to sing their harmonies in a detached, laid back manner provides a contrast to the crispy, brazen instrumentals that sounds Californication-level cool. Richardson, on her part sounds like a mix of Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and VV (The Kills) while Marsden, who mostly sings harmonies beneath Richardson, has a deep voice reminiscent of Matt Berninger (The National), yet he can also reach up to sound like one of the Mando Diao guys when allowed to shine, as he is for instance in the album's wildest, most asskicking song "You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On".

Now, when I say the album might only maintain its grasp on your ears until track six, it's because Band Of Skulls, who already experimented successfully with a quieter approach on the fifth song "Lay My Head Down", decide to further explore this side of their sound on the two songs that follow "You're Not Pretty..". And while "Navigate" and "Hometowns" provide dense, immersive - almost folksy - atmospheres, they do admittedly not strike me as being as ear catching and memorable as harder rocking tracks, and I wonder if it wouldn't have suited the downplayed instrumentation in these songs, if the band had let their vocals flourish a little more, maybe showing a bit more vulnerability here.

However, it is only a very slight dip in quality for one authentic mother of a rock'n'roll album, which does also give you another shot of energy with "Lies" before sounding off with another quiet number in "Close To Nowhere". "Sweet Sour" is a deliciously tightly wound record by a band that shows expert understanding for a timeless sound, and as I hinted above, it has the consistency of quality to feel like a 'Kills record, if only you'd taken the best 'Kills songs from their last three records and made one single cool-as-fuck record out of that. Plainly, if you like indie and/or rock'n'roll, I think this here is an early highlight of the year you should be checking.


Download: Sweet Sour, Bruises, The Devil Takes Care Of His Own, You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On
For The Fans Of: The Kills, The White Stripes, The Joy Formidable, The Raveonettes

Release Date 21.02.2012
Electric Blues / Pias Recordings

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