Review : Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour
ConsequenceofsoundI 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.
Sweet Sour centers on a fresh, more streamlined sound than the band’s rowdy breakthrough debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Luckily the gritty guitar rock and fury is still present, polished and packaged here as shiny, modern rock n’ roll thanks to producer Ian Davenport. With this 10-track album, Band of Skulls essentially carry the flag of guitar, bass, and drum trios where other acts have grown fatigued and clichéd.
“Sweet Sour” leads the album with balanced vocal harmonies to lessen the blow of in-your-face instrumentals, the yowling lyrics (“sour by the minute but you’re sweeter by the hour”), punctuating the metal-esque trills and doomsday drums and bass. “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”’s blazing three minutes highlight the band’s ferocious, venue-dominating authority that aptly rears its head even on the sultrier tracks (“Lay My Head Down”). The former track sounds wrought from hell itself: ambling guitars, howling slides, and mighty vocals provide a heavy metal assault to the ears....full text
GuardianTalk 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. It begins with a gloriously primitive fuzz-guitar fanfare, a motif that is repeated elsewhere, especially on The Devil Takes Care of His Own, which is three minutes of humid swamp-rock. Then it levels out into glossy, MTV-metal terrain, with commercial silkiness added in the form of Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson's wistful vocals. Navigate is a folkish anomaly, a-shimmer with twilit harmonies; Bruises starts out that way, but takes a Bon Jovi-ish turn. You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On is a showcase for Marsden's power-riffing. It's all entirely listenable, if not what you might expect....full text
PastemagazineYou 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. In-between, these guys sound like just about everybody else: “Bruises” is a tender, high-soaring ballad in the mode of Radiohead’s The Bends, but with a little more beef in their beastly guitar crunch. Meanwhile, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” suggests The White Stripes with a (much) better drummer, recorded in a top-notch studio instead of a dimly-lit garage.
But whatever. The bottom-line is that these guys do what they do very, very well. Sweet Sour, their sophomore full-length, is torn almost evenly between spacious ballads and ass-smashing rock, and there isn’t much of a low-point to be found. Marsden is (obviously) quite a versatile guitarist, conjuring the sonic paths of his heroes, even as he carves out his own psychedelic territory. Often singing in unison with bassist-vocalist Emma Richardson, his voice is equally effective, with subtle, tight vocal harmonies rising like ghosts from ashes.
The only thing Band of Skulls need is a slight adjustment in the lyric department. Most of the time, the words just drift by, hidden behind the waves of glorious riffage—but when their arrangements put vocals front and center, there are some undeniably awkward spots, including the unsurprisingly macho “You’re Not Pretty But You Got it Goin’ On” (“You’re tone-deaf, but you’re singin’ a sing / You feel lost, but you know where you’re from”)....full text
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