Sunday, February 19, 2012

Band of Skulls: Sweet Sour

Jack White really started something. That’s not to say that he invented or even particularly popularized minimalist, bluesy-grungy guitar playing, but the success of The White Stripes has definitely created an opening in mainstream music for the popularity of bands such as The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather (both of which are Jack White projects), The Black Keys, The Kills, and a multitude of other bands with similar sounds. Band of Skulls is one of these “other bands.” The band, which consists of Brits Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward, creates a well-rounded, thick, chunky, and requisitely dirty sound on their new release Sweet Sour, but unlike their musical father, Band of Skulls are nowhere near as bluesy as they are grungy. Also unlike their musical father though, they rock a good bit harder. If only Sweet Sour was an album full of these types of tracks. On the tracks where they muster the most muscle, Band of Skulls soars sonically. On the tracks where they get contemplative and quiet, I want to simply fall asleep while listening.

That isn’t to say that tracks like “Lay My Head Down” are terrible. There’s just nothing particularly interesting about them. Easy and breezy at first, “Lay My Head Down” eventually drifts into a bit of interesting guitar reverb and echo, but too quickly ends up back in familiar territory. “Navigate” pulls off the slower and quieter thing much better, but simply sounds like it was made to accompany an annoying Twilight soundtrack instead of the song they did actually contribute to the New Moon soundtrack. “Friends,” which is one of the very few worthy songs to be included on the horrible Twilight soundtracks, was one of those soundtracks' few standout songs. (Pretty much everything is horrible about the whole Twilight franchise, and I’m amazed I found something good to say about anything connected to it-but that’s a story for another time).

On the flipside, tracks like “The Devil Takes Care of His Own,” and “Lies,” while most closely resembling White and Alison Moss’ side project The Dead Weather, are thunderously great rockers that hold their own against anything that White or Moss has done in the genre. “Bruises” is another hard hitting track that is one of the album's standouts.

The track on which the band mixes both their low and loud aspects most equitably, and has the most potential widespread appeal, is “Wanderluster.” It’s a driving track that is sufficiently loud enough, and ear appealing enough, to be the album’s most radio friendly yet “alternative” sounding song. To me it’s the track that should make the best radio and internet playlist single.

Overall, Sweet Sour is a pretty good mix of sweet and sour sounding songs. Fortunately, Band of Skulls are more sweet than sour.    

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