Band of Skulls, Sweet Sour, 2012, PIAS
Lay My Head Down
The Devil Takes Care of His Own
You're Not Pretty but You Got it Goin' On
Close to Nowhere
After forming in Southampton in 2008, Russell Marsden on vocals and guitar, Emma Richardson on bass and Matt Hayward on drums went through a few band names before settling on Band of Skulls. Sweet Sour was the blues-tinged indie rockers’ second album.
Opener and title track "Sweet Sour" has a strong White Stripes vibe (this will permeate the entire album). It’s a powerful start. The drums are strong on "Bruises" but the vocals have a languid character. "Lay My Head Down" uses a beautiful three part harmony. It starts gently with a dreamy, melancholy quality and then moves into a much more metal-esque instrumental which keeps things interesting before returning to the chilled vibe. "The Devil Takes Care of His Own" is pretty funky and bluesy, the guitars are strong throughout reaching a thrilling crescendo at the end of the song. "Wanderluster "is another show of instrumental power but it’s glossy and polished too. "Navigate" is a return to the gentle, slow-burn sort of sound. "You're Not Pretty but You Got It Goin' On" is an absolute bop that you won’t be able to resist dancing to with something of The Subways about it. Hometowns feels like the band starting to wind things down three songs from the end. It’s too slow for me and borders on sounding like a dirge. "Lies" though is a quality rock track with a strong drumbeat. The album ends with "Close to Nowhere" which is another one that feels too gentle to me and could have been left off.
It’s an enjoyable album with lots of surprises, everything feels very precise, whether the band are rocking hard or doing something a bit more gentle. It’s simple but very well done overall. The guitar riffs are clearly much more important than the lyrics but it works almost every time. It’s a short album though, and I didn’t really feel the need for so many quiet interludes, with the exception of the brilliant "Lay My Head Down" the other slow tracks seem to detract from the cool grungy rock vibe that permeates the rest of the songs. That said, The White Stripes’ legacy seems to be in good hands with Band of Skulls.