Band of Skulls – “Sweet Sour”

Sophomore Sweetness
By Matt Jones

Well it’s about time we had a good blues rock release in 2012.

Our heroes this week are the Southampton-based Band of Skulls, a talented trio whose sophomore LP Sweet Sour has me head nodding and air drumming something furious as of late. If you think you’ve heard of them but you’re not sure where, there’s a good chance you have; Band of Skulls has been featured on the soundtrack for both Friday Night Lights and Twilight: New Moon, and they have opened for big names like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Dead Weather, and Muse.

It’s easy to play Spot the Influences with Band of Skulls – Kings of Leon, AC/DC, and Jack White immediately come to mind – but that’s not to say they haven’t molded their own unique sound and done so to great effect. Vocalists Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson blend effortless harmonies with reverb-heavy fuzz guitar and driving bass lines over Matt Hayward’s solid drumming.

Sweet Sour brings out the best of each member’s talent and never puts forward a dull track; in fact, I like them all so much that I’m doing a track-by-track review for this album. I know these can be exhausting and unnecessarily long, but I kept this one extremely brief:

(1) “Sweet Sour
Delivers the best hook on the album. The Jack White is strong in this one – although he doesn’t have the same voice, there are some undeniable stylistic cues taken here. Great pulsing bass line, saccharine vocals, occasional rake-filled bluesy guitar riffs.

(2) “Bruises”
Another great hook, especially once the chorus arrives. The cries of “Some-thing good… A LITTLE TROUBLEINYANEIGHBORHOOD” sound like an Applebees commercial jingle submission that rocked too hard for TV (and didn’t quite understand the brand positioning). I love the raw energy of the drums.

(3) “Wanderluster”
Does an excellent job of balancing vocal harmonies with guitar distortion.

(4) “Devil Takes Care Of His Own”
Blends AC/DC-like riffage with lyrics and harmonies that could have come straight off a White Stripes album.

(5) “Lay My Head Down”
This track slows it down and it’s a really nice change of pace. Actually quite a good song.

(6) “You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On”
“…Pretty…” picks it back up and exemplifies the heavy reverb that’s present for most of the album. Unique rhythm but everything is completely in sync. Conjures all the sensory attributes of a bar; you can quite literally almost smell the smoke.

(7) “Navigate”
Another nice slow track; doesn’t have a remarkable hook but shows off Richardson’s vocal dynamics as it builds and subsides.

(8) “Hometowns”
Another slow track that proves Sweet Sour to be top-heavy in noise and bottom-heavy in chill; a Band-of-Horses-ish guitar riff plays in background while Marsden and Richardson harmonize. My only critique of this track is that it feels like it should be used to close out the album, but here we go again with

(9) “Lies”
Well, the entire second half of the album can’t ALL be slow, right? “Lies” voraciously rips several pages from the Raconteurs’ and Dead Weather’s book (albeit scaling it back a little bit – and let’s be honest, no one can freak out quite like Jack White). “Lies” is a good reminder that this whole album doesn’t use a lot of production trickery; what you see is what you get with Band of Skulls, and they pull off the raw power aesthetic well.

(10) “Close To Nowhere”
Ending soft and slow. To be fair, “Close” succeeds as an album closer just as well as “Hometowns” would have.

Band of Skulls is a gifted outfit that can pull off sweet slow songs and sour, raucous garage rock equally well. It’s for this reason that Sweet Sour is such a compelling listen and my pick for album of the week.

Matt’s Picks
(1) “Sweet Sour”
(2) “Bruises”
(3) “Wanderluster”
(4) “Devil Takes Care of His Own”
(5) “Lay My Head Down”
(6) “You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Going On”

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About mattneric

We like music.
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4 Responses to Band of Skulls – “Sweet Sour”

  1. katiemcmurtry says:

    haha! if “Bruises” was in an Applebees commercial I might consider eating there!

  2. GloriousMonster says:

    A strong second full-length album from the group, with a great and analytical review to match! 🙂

  3. Barry Oblivion says:

    Thanks… there is only so much mileage in ripping off Jack White. They would be wise to use Richardsons vocals as the dominant vocal. She has a better tones anyway and they it would sound less like the white stripes.

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