English trio Band of Skulls has been picking up some steam since their 2009 debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, having tracks featured on the soundtrack for the TV show “Friday Night Lights” as well as the New Moon movie from the Twilight saga. With their sophomore effort, it’s time for the garage rockers to take advantage of the attention and sweep up some new fans.
Expanding their audience was ostensibly on their minds in making Sweet Sour. Where their debut was more of a full-forced rocker, Sweet Sour boasts a wider array of tunes and a more delicate sense of melody and vocal interplay between vocalists Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson.
They don’t sound as raw, but they can certainly still rock hard (See: “You’re Not Pretty But You’ve Got It Goin’ On”), only now they understand now that a full album of fuzz and energy grows tiresome quickly. So after the title track opens Sweet Sour in a typically gritty way—it’s sure to be an early fan favorite—the band takes it down a few notches with “Bruises,” introducing a new, softer side in the verses which they expand upon later in the album.
This isn’t going to wow anyone at first, but those intrigued enough by the sound will continue to revisit it and find more to like with each listen. Perhaps the best example of this on Sweet Sour is “Navigate.” Here, the band takes the soft acoustic style into a slow build, and it works much nicer than before. They play with tension but throw in a curveball, and instead of releasing with a massive bridge, they slide things back down. Listeners will probably be puzzled at first but will appreciate it in time; it’s a well-executed song.
But then there are also tracks such as “Lay My Head Down.” The song takes its melodic cues from Pink Floyd during the verse and, just when it seems like the track has potential, gives way to a rather lousy chorus, one that the listener will swear they heard on an infomercial for a 1970s soft-rock compilation. They will be glad the band sandwiched it with their thickest slabs of bluesy grit.
By this time, though, the album’s lack of flow becomes clear and problematic. The band must have written all of these songs separately without really considering how they would piece together and then in production just kind of mixed up the heavy ones and the soft ones.
It’s most noticeable when “Lies” gets thrown in right before the end as a last-minute perk. It suits its purpose, but it almost sticks out too much and screws with the mood set by the previous two tracks before going into another softie, “Close to Nowhere,” which is otherwise a nice closer.
Band of Skulls is on the right track if they want to be in it for the long run. They have all the tools they need for success and their best one, their male-female vocal team, is utilized well already. Unfortunately, at this point, they still just sound like a really good opening band. Their best moments are the ones when they just rip it, but with just a few tweaks in their ballads, they will be a perfectly well-rounded group.
Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour tracklist:
- “Sweet Sour” – free download
- “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”
- “Lay My Head Down”
- “You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On”
- “Close to Nowhere”