Band Of Skulls - Sweet Sour
- By Nick Hagan -
- Feb 22, 2012
Southampton three-piece Band of Skulls caught the tail end of the noughties blues rock wave with their 2009 debut 'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey', but two quite excellent singles ('Death By Diamonds And Pearls', 'I Know What I Am') gave them enough of a spark to infiltrate radio playlists and make a minor stir in the slipstream left by Jack White et al a few years before.
Second album 'Sweet Sour' ploughs practically the same furrow, but is sadly lacking in enough fresh ideas or vigour to stand out from the pack.
It's an old-fashioned proposition. The boy-girl tandem vocals and variation between stompy rock tunes and chilled acoustic numbers is nice enough at first, with tracks like 'Lay My Head Down' given ample room to breathe through Ian Davenport's production.
The title track is an early pinnacle, but even then it doesn't quite blow your face off as it should, and really achieves nothing new outside a well-worn blues template. Ditto for first single 'The Devil Takes Care Of His Own' – fun, but just a little on the average side.
And this, perhaps, is the crux of the problem with 'Sweet Sour' – it isn't a troublesome second album, just a surprisingly dull exercise in how to make sub-Raconteurs guitar music that fails to offer anything truly earth-shattering.
'Wanderluster' is a notable exception – tricksy timings and rich vocals strike a pose somewhere between the band's two poles ('sweet' and 'sour' if you will), creating a beguiling slice of psychadelia that recalls Silversun Pickups.
'You're Not Pretty But You've Got It Going On' likewise rises above the slightly middling tone that dominates the record, baring its teeth with a cheeky riff, playful lyrics, pounding drums and one of the record's only decent solos. 'Lies' repeats the trick to slightly less compelling effect, though the chorus mantra 'Lies are the truth that you tell to yourself' is pretty infectious.
Elsewhere, 'Navigate' fails to achieve a great deal over 5 minutes 39 seconds apart from sounding like Radiohead in a coma.
There are plenty of nice moments you can pluck out from 'Sweet Sour' - the warm, porcelain-delicate melodies on final track 'Close To Nowhere' spring to mind, as does the kitchen sink melancholy of 'Hometowns', which sports the record's most interesting lyrics. But by and large there just aren't the songs.
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