If you’ve had a bit of a hole in your life since the demise of the once great White Stripes but also need a little metaphoric sugar in your tea, then you could do far, far worse than having a little gander at “Sweet Sour,“ the charming second album from pop- blues- rock outfit Band of Skulls. Don’t be put off by the fact that they have been playlisted by those hipsters at Radio 1; this is a surprising and diverse record packed with a pile of melodies and infectious tunes that the trio have appeared to have honed to a tee. “Sweet Sour” is, if I’m honest, a record that that I had little expectation for but am pleased I gave it time as it’s going to be one of those records that I know I will keep coming back to as the days get longer and the weather warmer.
You might already be familiar with the intricate blues-rock of ‘Bruises’ which has had plenty of airplay, mainly from the Black Keys lovin’ DJ fraternity but this is no bad thing as, in many ways, they plough a similar sonic groove. ‘The Devil Takes Care of His Own’ is a White Stripes track in all but the perfunctory red and white outfits but that’s not, repeat not, a criticism; ‘Wanderluster‘ has a commercial sheen on it- not in a cloying way though, it’s just got the air of professionalism and clarity that you may not have expected from the band’s guitar drenched debut album.
‘You’re not Pretty but You Got it Going On’ is probably the album’s highlight, showcasing the vocal talents of Emma Richardson and Russell Marsden to splendid effect, their louche, laconic vocalising partners well with a guitar riff that is laden, gloriously, with amped up feedback. ‘Hometowns‘ is an unexpected pause for thought and breath in the poppy mix. It’s a plaintive and melancholic tune, hopeful yet wistful: it’s something of an unassuming delight. Likewise, closing track ‘Close to Nowhere‘ reminds me of Ryan Adams at his most introspective and thoughtful.
Timing is often everything in the music business and the Southampton trio’s sophomore effort is as effective as a Wayne Rooney volley. Yes, they are a blues-rock outfit, although I think this does them a disservice and underscores the progress they have made both in songwriting craft and pop sensibility. For your hardened souls out there, there’s still enough grit in their oyster to keep your interest up too, so don’t fret. “Sweet Sour” arrives with little fanfare but digs in for the long haul. As second albums go, it’s a little charmer.