Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour (Electric Blues)

March 4, 2012 by  

You can put it down to the candour on which they have thrived since their break out, but the timing of Band of Skulls’ return to the fray really couldn’t have been better if they had tried. Just as bands like The Black Keys start to leave their cave of notoriety for the warmer climbs of more-radio friendly acceptance, Band of Skulls are there to take their place. And there at the bottom of Mt. White Stripes, the Southampton trio stand, ready to try and ascend the summit and plug the gaps of the swampy garage rock left by the Whites.

It’s been a good couple of years for the Southcoast band, cracking just as much, if not more of America then they did the UK with their brand of bluesy brashness, and helped in no small part to their inclusion on one of the Twilight Saga’s soundtracks.

Now they are back, and everyone is eager to see just where they will have gone from ‘Baby Darling Dollface Honey’.

You wouldn’t say it’s a frenetic start; it takes the first track to judder to life but the album then starts to build up in pace before being stopped dead with ‘Lay My Head Down’, and more than anything, you get a chance to reflect on the first 12 or so minutes.

They are good ones. ‘Sweet Sour’ and ‘Bruises’ laying the groundwork, ‘Wanderluster’ pulls the very best from the band’s repertoire before the buzzsaw rock ‘n’ roll kicks in.

The familiar harmonies fronted up by Russel Marsden and Emma Richardson are well-balanced, calming and perfectly juxtaposed against the fuzzy distortion backdrop. It’s almost out of place, like as if the Grim Reaper was walking you slowly up to the black gates, one hand on your shoulder, whilst whispering “everything will be alright” in your ear.

And sweet sour this album definitely is, in more than one sense. The music and the vocals don’t always match, yet they are still, as ever perfectly suited. And the album never really gets going for due to well placed slow burners in the tracklisting halting the momentum set by the stompers.

The worst thing you can say about this album is that there aren’t as many immediate moments on here that will make the casual listener sit up as there were on the debut, and I struggled to think of many of those moments on that album. Band of Skulls get by on much more than merit, and yet here they have succeeded in merely pressing forward with an album that is sure to grace many a background without ever fully coming into itself.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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