Band of Skulls continues to showcase variety of styles with ‘Sweet Sour’

Jack H. Evans

In 2009, English power trio Band of Skulls released Baby Darling Doll Face Honey , a sharp, catchy debut that yielded popular songs such as “I Know What I Am,” “Light of the Morning,” and “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” (a non-album track, “Friends,” was also included on the Twilight Saga: New Moon Soundtrack ). After three years of writing, recording, and supporting acts as big as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Dead Weather, and Muse, they’re back with Sweet Sour , an even more eclectic and polished affair. While it’s easiest to simply call Band of Skulls “garage rock,” they aren’t quite so easy to pigeonhole. Truth is their sound usually falls somewhere between the pop-inflected blues rock of The Black Keys and the whacked-out psychedelic heaviness of Queens of the Stone Age – but then again, that’s quite a wide range. Fuzzy guitar riffs and driving drum beats put the title track and “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” closer to the more traditional rock they explored on their debut, but elsewhere, they fly a bit farther out into left field. “Lay My Head Down” ventures into psychedelic indie territory, while “Bruises,” with its soulful harmonies and music video set in a bowling alley, has a bit of an alternative country feel. What really sets Band of Skulls apart, though, isn’t their eclectic style choices, but rather the fact that they have two capable vocalists in Russell Marsden (also guitar) and Emma Richardson (also bass). The two trade off leads, with Marsden shining on the title track and “The Devil Takes Care of His Own,” while Richardson does the same on “Bruises” and “Lies.” Harmonies are apparent in nearly every song, but these aren’t poppy Beach Boys harmonies. Instead, the harmonies lend an interesting darkness to many of the songs, distinguishing them from more upbeat garage rock groups. While the music might not display significant skill – indeed, Sweet Sour lacks the guitar solos that Marsden ripped on several tracks on Baby Darling Doll Face Honey , and Richardson’s bass lines and Matt Hayward’s drum beats aren’t mind-bogglingly complex – it is dynamic enough to be interesting, and it allows for the vocals to shine as a focal point. Band of Skulls may not be reinventing the wheel here, but they do a pretty good job of expanding the “garage rock revival” sound. To say that Sweet Sour tops Baby Darling Doll Face Honey might be pushing it, but it’s at least on par. One thing is for sure: Band of Skulls hasn’t fallen into any sophomore slump. Overall rating: 8/10 Jack H. Evans is the entertainment editor for The Bark. Follow The Bark on Twitter @BeardenBARK, and like The Bark (Bearden High School) on Facebook.