Band Of Skulls – ‘Sweet Sour’

Proficient, precision-executed blues-rock with few genuine surprises

Like jeans, mashed potato and sex, the brand of hard-worn Britrock peddled by this south coast trio never has, and never will, fall in or out of fashion. On the Monday after the endtimes, rest assured that the racks at your local indie store will be plentifully stocked with albums just like ‘Sweet Sour’. And therein lies [a]Band Of Skulls[/a]’ curse and blessing. The very fabric of Britain’s toilet circuit is built on lank-haired US-facing sweat-rock like theirs – but sadly, you’d be better off in the maelstrom of one of their live shows than taking this album home. They just work better that way.

Yet inevitably, for all that’s impressive about their second album, it’s much like going on Nemesis at Alton Towers for the 100th time – you already know its every thrilling twist and turn. Just hear the way the crunching QOTSA riffs of ‘Bruises’ segue into the pared-down torch-song rock of ‘Wanderluster’, the type of pace change that’s been heard on every blues-rock album this side of the genre’s early ’00s purple patch. Or check out the age-old loud-quiet dynamic deployed on the title track.

Even a cursory glance at the song titles – from ‘The Devil Takes Care Of His Own’ to ‘You’re Not Pretty But You Got It Goin’ On’ – is like digging into blues-rock’s most ancient scrolls. Only on the latter of these tracks do Band Of Skulls truly hit their musical stride, going for folksy subtlety over bombast, allowing co-vocalist Emma Richardson’s coos truly to take centrestage away from the album’s heavier moments.

Ultimately, from start to finish, you know what you’ve ordered: proficient, precision-executed blues-rock with few genuine surprises. Which, while hardly a ringing endorsement, has worked to spectacular effect for The Black Keys over the past decade. See you down the front at Ally Pally in 2020, then.

Rick Martin