Music Review: Band Of Skulls ‘Sweet Sour’

Sweet Sour
Band Of Skulls
CD | MP3
Vagrant Records
Release Date: February 14, 2012

As a music geek, one of my favorite pastimes when listening to a new artist is picking out all of their influences. I can usually figure it out right away, but then there are bands like Band Of Skulls. The English power trio so effortlessly blends styles like blues, classic rock, pop, folk, and garage rock on their new album Sweet Sour that pinning down one or two major influences becomes nearly impossible. Fans of 2009’s Baby Darling Dollface Honey need not worry about a sophomore slump. The way that record was produced, it felt as though the band would leap from your speakers into your living room, rocking out right in front of you with every spin. Everything that made the former effort sound fresh and exciting is still here, just tightened and refined without sounding forced or insincere.

Sweet Sour kicks off with the slow-burning stomper title song. The track stalks along the thunderous groove by Emma Richardson (Bass, Vocals) and Matt Hayward (Drums), accented by the wriggling licks of Russell Marsden (Guitar, Vocals) before exploding in a dirty rock and roll crescendo. Marsden proves his vocal chops all over the record, but this track is certainly of note. Jumping back and forth between sweet crooning and sour rock growl, Marsden sets the tone for the rest of the set. The album continues with the much larger and brighter feeling “Bruises,” a folksy influenced roots rock number. “Wanderluster” has poppy licks, ELO-styled harmonies, and a few tempo shifts thrown in for good measure.

Ballads can be the Achilles’ Heel of any great rock record, but fortunately that is not the case with “Lay My Head Down,” a contemplative number with is fair share of surprises. The Richardson-led “Navigate” is an intricately layered piece that boasts the lyric: “The more you talk the less you mean/They told me that when I was just seventeen/When it sinks in you will not always be here/Funny how all your small worries disappear.”

Sweet Sour comes to a compelling close with the gentle pulse of “Close To Nowhere,” a stylistic opposite to the album’s opening track. After trading lead vocals on the album’s other 9 songs, Marsden and Richardson’s country-tinged duet on this track makes for one of Sweet Sour’s finer moments. Though not as brash as some of the other songs, it nevertheless demands your full attention with tight harmony and wistful melody.

I have been anticipating this record for some time now, and I am relieved to finally have it here. Band Of Skulls has not only added another set of songs to their cannon, but they have also honed the craft of writing a complete album. Though full of contrast, the disc never feels uneven or misguided. The riffs feel fresh, the rhythms excite, and the lighter tones never bore. From beginning to end, Sweet Sour is a cohesive record that stands as more than just a collection of tunes. Head over to the band’s Soundcloud page to preview the title track along with other great tracks.

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