Band of Skulls sounds more “Sweet” than “Sour”

By Acacia DiCiaccio

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Bluesy rock is making its foray back into the popular music scene.

In a time when rock and roll music has been commercialized and watered down, many fans have stuck with the classics. But bands like The Black Keys are paving the way for newer artists, such as Band of Skulls, to make rock good again.

Band of Skulls – who formed in Southampton, England in 2004 – recently released their sophomore album “Sweet Sour,” again proving their adeptness for creating cool music. Lead singer Russell Marsden offers his grungy guitar skills, often backed vocally by Emma Richardson while Matthew Hayward bangs the drums.

Haven’t heard of Band of Skulls? Think again. Tracks from their debut album, “Baby Darling Doll Face Honey,” have infiltrated the mainstream without many people knowing. A 2011 Mustang ad featured “Light of the Morning.”  The song “I Know What I Am” has appeared in various media venues, including a free iTunes single of the week and the popular video game “Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.” And the “Twilight Saga: New Moon” soundtrack included the band’s track “Friends.”

But Band of Skulls is not just some gimmick band meant only for commercial media. The band knows how to lay down a mixture of rock and blues in a way that is familiar, but not overdone.

The CD is called “Sweet Sour” after the title track, released as a free single on iTunes the second week of February. The album arrived one week later, a sweet Valentine’s gift to jaded music junkies.

The song “Sweet Sour” is so catchy that it might have outdone the full release, if not for salvation by the second track “Bruises.” The momentum of “Sweet Sour” continues with a rocking guitar riff that evokes a bit of obligatory head banging or at least some toe tapping.

“The Devil Takes Care of His Own” finds its influence from legitimate rock bands like The White Stripes and retains the grinding quality of the first two tracks.

The slower tunes often find themselves in the realm of background music, with the exception of “Hometowns,” which is able to lyrically conjure an emotional response and verge on the realm of “somber” instead of just “boring.” It fosters an organic feel by garnering the finger-sliding noise of the guitar strings.

Listeners will find themselves sourly wishing that “Lay My Head Down” had been taken off the list completely, at least until the guitar turns grungy at minute four.

“You’re Not Pretty But You Got it Goin’ On” is a unique track worth highlighting because it keeps the album from “sounding all the same,” one of the biggest complaints of popular rock music today.

“Navigate” is another slow tune that features female band member Richardson. It wants to dabble in a folk sound that is not congruent with the rest of the album.

It is refreshing to hear new rock n’ roll with influences from the past. Britain is known for releasing the best rock greats into the world: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd; Band of Skulls is becoming a hopeful for international stardom.

For those who have not yet heard the band or only vaguely recall their music from past sources, now would be the time to pick up an album — while they are still playing gigs at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston for only $15 per general admission ticket. The band has already been booked at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this summer.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]