As the album title indicates, Southampton’s Band Of Skulls seem to be operating in a world of opposites…male/female, loud/quiet and contemporary/traditional. The final one is the most intriguing and rewarding, as the trio have forged a sound that is based on classic rockers like Led Zeppelin, yet sounds thoroughly modern.
This is the second album for the trio that consists of Russell Marsden (guitars), Emma Richardson (bass) and Matt Heyward (drums). Marsden and Richardson handle most of the vocals. All three share songwriting credits on the ten tracks that comprise Sweet Sour.
The title track starts things off with the clang of a guitar amp. The track is a mid-tempo rocker with a heavy drum sound and big Zeppelin-esque guitar riffs that explode at the end of the track. An excellent start to a very good record.
Bruises follows with Marsden and Richardson harmonizing over more big, crunching guitar licks. They’ve got that quiet/loud dynamic working to full effect here.
Lay My Head Down is slow, mellow, melodic and the highlight of the album. Emma Richardson’s dreamy vocal is mesmerizing and Marsden’s harmonies are exquisite. The band finally explodes at the end resulting in a fine solo from Marsden.
They follow with a flat-out rocker. The Devil Takes Care Of His Own offers to “flip the rug to reveal the ugly seed”, and they do just that, with a guitar riff that Jimmy Page would be proud to call his own.
The latter half of the album is highlighted by the delightfully-titled You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On another noisy rocker, sung by Marsden, that addresses opposites…”You feel lost but you know where you come from”.
Hometowns contains the record’s most moving lyric…it’s about returning home at finding “kids just having kids for fear of being alone”. Inverses come up again in Lies, which “are truths that you tell to yourself”.
Interestingly, the album closes with a whimper, rather than a bang. Close To Nowhere begins with a low rumble and becomes a quiet, atmospheric bon voyage.
At just under 40 minutes, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. With Sweet Sour, Band Of Skulls have successfully avoided the sophomore slump, building on the success they scored with their first album, 2009’s Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.
Click here to listen to Bruises from Sweet Sour: