Band Of Skulls - 'Sweet Sour' (UK Release: 20 Feb '12) // Words: Simon Opie
You wait ages for a sophomore album that’s better than its predecessor and then three come along at once. After Pulled Apart by Horses and Last Witness, Southampton trio Band Of Skulls have produced a second album that eclipses their first album – the well received 'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey' - in every way.
'Sweet Sour' builds a much bigger sound around their classic lineup of Bass, Guitar and Drums. Title track, 'Sweet Sour', cracks open the album with a swagger reminiscent indeed of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s own tune 'Sweet N Sour'. Distorted guitars underpin the main riffs and the song builds slowly, like an approaching storm, ending with a flurry of jagged guitar notes and chugging bass – "Sourer by the minute but you’re sweeter by the hour". Cool song.
Then both 'Bruises' and 'Wanderluster' play at combining the different aspects of their sound – full-on heaviness versus restrained bittersweet melodies – and pretty successfully too. After that the album alternates between songs that sound like The White Stripes on steroids – 'The Devil Takes Care Of His Own', 'You’re Not Pretty But You Go It Goin’ On' and 'Lies' – and gentler songs that exploit the almost folky qualities of Emma Richardson’s vocals – of which 'Navigate' and 'Close To Nowhere' are the best.
What’s refreshing is that both approaches are pulled into the narrative of the record and it all makes some sort of sense. The band definitely wear their influences quite comfortably and I really like the fact that they have a distinctive voice nonetheless.
I know I’ve been in trouble for saying this before but I do feel that British music has been in the doldrums for a while (with some notable exceptions of course), and now there are some encouraging signs that we’re moving into a newly creative phase. Band Of Skulls are part of that renaissance, which is happening across a great variety of musical styles, and 'Sweet Sour' is a strong statement. Better still, it leaves the impression that the best of this band is yet to come.
'Sweet Sour' is available to purchase from Amazon.co.uk.