There is no more bullshit statement than: “Rock is dead.” If one stops looking and takes his ear off the ground for just a split-second, the facade of a long, lost genre of music can creep up on you. But good music is all around us, and with open minds and open eyes it’s quite possible to drown in it all, really. And the sophomore record from England’s Band of Skulls is further proof that the music scene, especially modern rock, is still alive and well. Very well.
Sweet Sour, the band’s follow-up to 2009’s Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, is loud and plugged in at all the right times, and conversely, quiet, soothing, and wise at all the right times. Musically, the band is as alive as ever, raging through a 10-song set of mostly amped up guitar-driven Rock. The title track, for example, is accompanied by steady drums, while Russell Marsden lays down an intricate blend of chords and melody. The vocals, shared with bassist Emma Richardson, add another layer, as both Marsden and Richardson sing almost the entire song together (and other tracks, as well). Their hamonization is part of the glue that gives Band of Skulls its unique flair.
The lyrics, at times, are terse, building upon the trio’s mystery. There’s a lot of meaning throughout all of the brevity (“Something real, another feeling that you never feel / Another reason that you wanna be alive just to watch the bruises heal.”) Some tracks, such as “Close to Nowhere,” speak worlds in just a few lines (“I will prove it – hold on to it – give it my heart and soul / With a chance I’ll lose it when I find you, I will know / Next to nothing – far from over – close to nowhere.”) And that’s half the track’s word play right there. If you love lyrics, I encourage a nice headphone session with this one. The ballads, including “Close to Nowhere” and “Lay My Head Down,” are best enjoyed this way; on the surface they may not seem attention worthy, but they’re a nice, slow burn with a heavy payoff for those who put in the time to appreciate them.
For others looking for thrashing attitude, it takes about 45 seconds to discover – that’s the time it takes to get through the first chorus of “The Devil Takes Care of His Own.” The tune comes complete with a catchy hook, proud spirit, and banging drums. It’s just one piece of the puzzle that really makes Sweet Sour a complete collection. As a whole, this sophomore effort is loud, unpretentious, and full of heart and determination. What more can you ask for?