Laughing in the face of the concept of the 'difficult' second album, Southampton's Band of Skulls seem to have rattled off Sweet Sour with ease as the album possesses the kind of cocky grandeur that we saw in Queens of the Stone Age when they first started flexing their muscles. They don't occupy quite the same arena as Homme's gang and lack the sucker punch of QotSA but what they lack in brutality, they make up for in bolshy melody. Benefitting from some pretty slick production (courtesy of Ian Davenport), Russell and Emma's harmonies are so smooth they may as well be hanging out the window of an old Corvette, at the bottom of the garden path, with a single red rose in their teeth.
Sweet Sour is pretty much just that. Velveteen vocals over filthy bass lines, soft, lengthy ballads juxtaposed with brutally brief numbers that are saturated with festival headline ambition. The latest single 'Bruises' is the track that surmises the rest of the album. Retro stoner sludge-rock, Pixies-esque guitars, obligatory quiet-loud dynamics, the kind of radio friendly melody that's gnarly enough to snag in your ears, and catchy enough to stay there. It's followed by 'Lay My Head Down' which somehow seems like an extension of the track before. It's a gentle love song and you can almost hear Crosby Stills and Nash bickering in the background, asking for their song back.
Just in case you'd worried they'd gone totally soft, Band of Skulls ensure they live up their rockier-than-thou moniker and unleash the riffs on 'You're Not Pretty But You Got It Going On', ensuring a lengthy tenancy in the canon of rock clich's. The song title epitomises the kind of shallow sentiment that has made lesser men very rich men and it's a vein that Band of Skulls aren't afraid to plunder. It's neither interesting, funny or terribly appealing, unfortunately. But hey, it worked for The Datsuns. Briefly. Like, really briefly. It's almost a shame they resort to the lowest of their common denominators because elsewhere, they display a maturity of song-writing ability that others would envy.
Band of Skulls aren't going to break any moulds, any time soon but they've already tapped into the hormonal teen market (their track 'Friends' was included on the soundtrack to Twilight: New Moon back in 2009) and with Sweet Sour, they've a few radio-hugging tunes under their studded belts. And as long as they're not banking on a vote from the feminist contingent, they'll undoubtedly be. oh, I dunno. at least as big as The Datsuns.