They’re perhaps best known for bluesy rock riffs of the Led Zep and Black Keys variety, but on new album ‘Love is All You Love’, Southampton’s Band of Skulls embrace change and modern music with a bunch of direct songs that lock into a groove and don’t let go. Working with pop producer Richard X, the duo have tested the strictures of their sound with fantastic results.
There’s still plenty of room for dirty guitars and rock and roll ticks, but there’s a newfound emphasis on electronic beats and more anthemic vocals. The best tracks are where Band of Skulls push themselves furthest as on lead single ‘Cool Your Battles’, a hopeful plea for everyone to just chill out and be nice to each other. A well-crafted vocal harmony opens onto a dance-influenced bassline and drum beat, that’s as major key as anything they’ve previously put it out.
‘Carnivorous’ and ‘That’s My Trouble’ refine their older garage sound with greater potency than they’ve captured on record before, and ‘Sound of You’ gives bassist Emma Richardson room to explore a woozy vocal over a reserved instrumental.
The centrepiece of the album are twin bangers ‘Thanks a Lot’ and ‘We’re Alive’, showing off a greater desire to cross genres than they’ve put forward before. ‘Thanks a Lot’ is a melodic love song that recalls a late 90s Britpop festival tune. ‘We’re Alive’, a defiant call to arms for younger generations to push back and claim control of their future, is probably the most complete song they’ve ever penned, both in terms of immediate catchiness and its galvanising message. If the sun shines, expect this one to take off in festival fields this summer.
The effectiveness of these more upbeat tracks can put the shade on some finely executed rock standards, but that guitarist Russell Marsden and Richardson have been able to tap a new vein of inspiration on their fifth album is a testament to their skill as musicians.
After a ponderous few years, that’s seen their drummer depart and the rock scene morph into something far more future facing, Band of Skulls have made a change and found a way forward; don’t you stand in their way.