Release Date: February 14th, 2012
Reviewed By Evelyn Miska Krieger
With a name like Band of Skulls it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the uninitiated expected something much more, well, metal. The reality of the situation couldn’t be much further from the truth. The group which hails from Southampton, England is every inch garage and indie rock and while their sound swings from almost delicate to reminiscent of the White Stripes, it never quite achieves what one might expect from their moniker. That said, once listeners get past the incongruous epithet they’ll find an intriguing and well-crafted collection of songs for the band’s sophomore effort.
While the comparison to The White Stripes isn’t terrifically unusual, it is impossible to ignore the similarities between Band of Skulls and one of the most well-known of garage bands. Songs like “Sweet Sour” and “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” are perfect examples of how well this sound works for Band of Skulls. There’s just the right amount of grit to keep the songs from feeling too slick for the genre and, besides that, they’re simply well-written songs that will keep listeners interested. It may not seem like much of a compliment, but considering the state of some music today, that’s high praise.
However, Band of Skulls isn’t simply a one trick pony. While they could have recorded 10 tracks that all had that energetic but rough feel, instead, they mixed in some Indie influences like on songs such as “Hometowns.” The song comes off as so simple when compared to the relatively complex other tracks, but that’s part of its beauty. Keeping it stripped down to a pretty guitar melody and strong harmonizing vocals by Emma Richardson and Russell Marsden was a wise approach and allows one to really get a good understanding of their range. “Lay My Head Down” is similar in nature, but has a tiny bit of a psychedelic rock feel, just enough to keep it different but there’s enough continuity that it isn’t a shocking shift.
While Sweet Sour doesn’t exactly have any one track that leaps out at listeners on the first run through, it has a great deal going for it. There’s nothing frantic about the album; it is methodical and clearly carefully considered but maintains enough of that garage style to keep it from being too polished. Even if their name and style don’t seem to go together, their songs clearly come from a united vision.