By Bob Freville
The following review originally appeared in Kotori Magazine on June 19th of 2009. It is included here as part of our retro weekend series.
“Gasoline, saccharine/I got no reason for the state I’m in/But I know what I am/They know what they are/So let me be.” So go the opening lyrics to the first brazen song I hear from Band of Skulls. And it goes on about hotels and taco bells, these are two of my favorite things, so it’s definitely for me and I think the clap stop tambourine duet bepop ‘tude of this tune is for a lot of other cats too. And it’s only a set warmer, but damn if it doesn’t throw sparks! With stomps and chants it’s got everything that says, “We are legion, I dare you!” A strong case for individuality if there ever was one.
“Fires” comes on like a bellyful of butterflies and breath mints, a star-crossed homage to that fleeting, urgent sick sensation of anticipatory love that every one of us is lucky to experience at least once or twice in our lives. The get-together of timbre, atmosphere and mood is perfectly layered, textured in cherubic background coos; This is what really sells the package, the soft and somewhat somber love potion that gives us the same progressive wind of the Sixties. This would be in good company alongside “Telstar” by The Tornadoes or “Nights in White Satin.”
This same track reminds me why I love the London Suede and why Blur never lived up to their full potential. They were on too many downers to convey the full spectrum of emotional possibility. Band of Skulls might be able to succeed with this. Sentient Rock is much different than what now passes as Emo, and that’s crystalline from hearing this sampler of tone and topic married to power strip.
“Death By Diamonds & Pearls” is either an overt tribute to The White Stripes, in musical and vocal concoction, or some producer or label rep’s take on an appropriate single-worthy entry into the batch. If it’s the former, then the end result is fluid and well-crafted and perfectly dead-on. If it’s the latter, well, that’s kind of short-changing the band’s obvious ability, but right on! It works, man. Who is to judge? Every great band had to produce something somewhat insincere to make good.
Look at Modest Mouse’s licensing their songs for bullshit commercial TV spots that have nothing to do with the substance of the material or Korn whoring themselves in underwear ads in teeny bopper magazines back in the day. Before the groundbreaking “Follow The Leader” there was “Life is Peachy,” a borderline pointless EP whose purpose was to get 90’s kids to buy the same clothing their older brothers or uncles wore in the 70’s, on the basis of a grade school play on initials (All Day I Dream About Sex). The Stones recorded several worthless records that meant shit. It kept their name prominent.
Something in my gullet speaketh: Band of Skulls will never have a problem with this. They’ll never attain prominence in the first place, not with radio programmers playing the detritus they now play. Their hope lies in satellite and kooky showcases. And thank Haile Selassie for that! There are cafes full of crunchy people ready to sway.