The second album from stoner alternative rock band Band of Skulls, Sweet Sour, contains the perfect concoction of both sweet and sour. With grungy guitar riffs, heavy drum beats, and soulful and savory vocals, the album has a certain edge to it that makes it the perfect follow up to first album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey.
Certain aspects of the album resonate into unexpected melodies and rhythm changes which can only be described as, “I don’t know what just happened, but I like it.” Soft instrumentals lead into heavy, raging guitar and passionate harmonies before you can even realize it’s the same song. In retrospect, being able to change so short stop is something that Band of Skulls have going for them. Along with Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson’s harmonization, the three piece band packs a powerful punch with their astonishingly complete sound. Not that three piece bands haven’t been known to do this in the past (think Muse, Joy Formidable), just many don’t do it successfully, and Band of Skulls defeat the lingering superstition.
First single and fourth track, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own,” which seriously fell under the radar, is three minutes of angsty, full on bluesy rock and roll. If you’re missing the White Stripes, listen to this song. Not to further compare the two bands, but sixth track “You’re Not Pretty But You Got it Going On” is reminiscent to the Stripes in name and sound. Marsden’s treble starts off the song, and whirring, up tempo guitars, rapid finger picking, and Matt Hayward’s drum solos carry it to the climactic end.
Second single, and probably the track everyone is going to acknowledge from the album, “Sweet Sour” has everything a single should have. Much like BDDFH single “I Know What I Am,” this track has a repetitive hook that carries the whole theme of the song. With little quips like, “You were none the wiser / Even though you tried to understand it,” the sassy lyrics enhance the driving instrumentals and the wild guitar breakdown.
Third single, “Bruises” has somewhat of a softer side with a heavier chorus. Much like the lyrics, this song is like the quiet kid who is waiting to explode into feelings. One would think that the sweet vocal melodies and the harder instrumentals would contrast, but the song is so well put together that they actually complement each other. This song will hopefully make as great of a stride on the radio as “Sweet Sour.”
“Wanderluster” continues the whirling, fast paced to slow paced, mind blowing, bangover feeling that the majority of the album holds. Nothing really jumps out about this track, it’s just comfortably average, but nonetheless catchy.
“Lay My Head Down” starts off a bit droning with a slow acoustics and talk of sleep. But then almost 4 minutes in there’s a surprise, (and when I say surprise, I really mean it, I had to listen again to make sure I wasn’t imagining it) bass drop. Unlike that song Skrillex posted on Facebook, you don’t have to wait for the bass to drop. Remember the unexpected twists from earlier? Yea, this is one of them.
Sorry, still recovering. Aforementioned “You’re Not Pretty” kicks the beat back up before a series of slower songs take over. “Navigate” is a very pretty song, telling a tale of travelling the sea with appropriate and simply beautiful instrumentals. “Hometowns” continues the previous theme, putting the lyrics in the spotlight. Which is actually a quite nice balance in the album, signifying that neither component is more important than the other. And there’s a flute?
The glass bottle tings in “Lies” pick the pace back up along with even more sass. “Lies are the truths that you tell to yourself” sting over cutting riffs and street drums. Although the shortest song on the album at not even 2 and a half minutes, “Lies” leaves its mark.
Have I mentioned the purity of Richardson’s voice yet? No? Well “Close to Nowhere” will do that for me. With crescendo-ing cymbals and Furtados, the band shows their sweet side. While the song may be entrancing, Band of Skulls couldn’t have chosen a better last track. It slowly falls away, but completes the message before it does.
Overall, the album is consistent and catchy, edgy yet soft, heavy yet light, and definitely sweet and sour. Band of Skulls masters the art of contrasting themes and sounds without being overbearing on too heavy handed on either side. They may come off as the cool kids with the intimidating name, but look past the cover and you’ll find the balance.
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