Monday, 20 February 2012

Review: Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour

 Modern blues rock is a genuinely wonderful thing to hear. It's a style that has one a place in the hearts of many listeners of more mainstream music, while also being cool in the eyes of genuine rock fans. It's one of the few styles of music that manages to sound simultaneously fresh while revealing a classic influence as well. Anyway, in this subtle rise of celebrated blues rock acts one of the latest groups to make their mark is Southampton's Band of Skulls whose 2009 debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey brought together the best of old-school blues rock with a chilled atmosphere of the best modern day alt rock. Anyway, this blissful array of rock is gracefully continued in 2012 as they come thundering back with their second album Sweet Sour.

 It doesn't take long for the group to reveal the full extent of this talent for bringing together the hard hitting impact of classic hard rock and the tender subtleties of indie rock and tracks like the opening title track and Wanderluster are reminiscent to the works of The White Stripes, The Black Keys and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, as rough, rustic guitar riffs from Russel Marsden and thumping drumbeats from Matt Hayward presents a joyful rock n' roll power shining through the delicate indie rock backdrop which is simply entrancing in it's ethereal serenity.
 The combination of these two elements of blues rock is wonderful enough on it's own but the moments of the album which are focused one particular element are breathtaking enough on their own. When the sole focus of the music is the hard rock element we find tracks like The Devil Takes Care of His Own and You're Not Pretty But You Got it Goin' On both having a reminiscence to Queens of the Stone Age, the latter sounding like the group in their prime, the former in their Era Vulgaris... era but both packed with adrenaline nonetheless. The lead vocals of bassist Emma Richardson and scuzzy guitar solo found on Lies also boosts the group's rock n' roll credentials. Sounding reminiscent to The Kills, Lies is pretty much successful in epitomizing "cool".
 Similarly, focusing on the more gentle moments of blues is crucial in this album as well, as tracks like Navigate and Hometowns are delivered with a simple and delicate acoustic led backdrop which listeners will lose themselves in effortlessly, plus the dual harmonies of Marsden and Richardson are both incredibly beautiful. The performance in the albums closer Close to Nowhere is also delightfully sweet, with songwriting and arrangement clearly done with an influence to The Velvet Underground's more peaceful moments.
 But, ultimately, what Sweet Sour does is continue to prove that the combination of classically influenced blues rock mixed with modern indie rock and garage rock is a style of music that can be celebrated with great ease and enjoyment. A lot of guitar work has a reminiscence to Led Zeppelin and The Who and various other classic rock masters and the stellar shimmering production and entrancing delicate vocal performances gives these songs a greater laid back atmosphere. And if swaggering rock riffs and chilled out attitudes aren't representative of the spirit of the blues staying alive in good health, I don't know what is.

 Band of Skulls' Sweet Sour is out now via Electric Blues Recordings. The band are on tour of the UK with Broken Hands.

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