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2012 sophomore album from the British rockers. By the time they reached Rockfield, the legendary residential studio in Wales, the band were primed to road-test the new material, playing a handful of US dates in a break from the album sessions. A performance at the Bonnaroo festival went on to shape the album's character. "The new songs went down so well there we decided to incorporate some of the mistakes and mishaps into the studio versions," says Marsden. "We had Ian [Davenport, returning producer] jumping on top of our Fender amps to recreate one bit where the reverb was crackling and making weird noises. All the gear still had the dust and mud on it from the festival, so the dirt was there: a bit of filth from the road that made it onto the record."
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Sweet Sour is an amazing album, just like all the rest of their albums.
Not a good sophomore effort.
In my opinion, they did all three. And here's why.
First, why this album stayed on par with their debut. These songs maintain the strengths the trio displayed at first. Russell Marsden's and Emma Richardson's great individual voices and even better harmonious duets (for lack of a better word) still blow me away, as though the two were born to sing together. They are harmoniously distinct, as in they sound incredible together but the listener can still pick out the nuances of each. Really, every track is an excellent example of this.
Then there's the great guitar tone and effects... throughout. Enough said there.
The creative timing and tempo methods and changes keep you on your toes without making you feel lost within the song (think how mentally exhausted you get when you hear Rush and contrast that with how smooth Pink Floyd switches between time signatures and/or tempos... Band of Skulls maintains that smoothness). This is often thanks to Matthew Hayward's silky smooth and incredibly precise drum tracks. Wanderluster has excellent execution of the 7-beat measures but then seamlessly flows into a more normal 8-beat format.
And the "rock-your-head" factor... definitely maintained that. Listen to Lies or You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On and just *try* not rock out. Yeah, thought so...
Second, why this album set a higher standard than previously set by BDDFH. This album maintains a slightly slower feel than their debut. This displays their depth, their ability to make great rock songs without feeling the need to play obnoxiously fast and shred out a solo every 30 seconds (not that they did that on BDDFH, just that other bands feel that's what makes them "cool"). Tracks like Lay My Head Down (with the segment of pure and sweet instrumental controlled chaos), and Navigate (with the haunting instrumentation slowly yet powerfully driving the track) prove you don't have to play a mile-a-minute to make a great song.
Third, however, this same slower pace is also why I feel they fell short of the bar BDDFH set (though only by a tiny bit). Tracks like Hometowns and Close to Nowhere are good slow songs with great dual vocals and nice guitar tone. But they seem to drag just a tad. I hate to say that because I really do love Band of Skulls, and the fact that these songs are slower (Close to Nowhere being *significantly* slower) isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, Close to Nowhere is the album closer. It's allowed to be slow. But when you compare that with BDDFH's final track "Cold Fame," you see the difference.
So if you were looking for more of a driving album in imitation of BDDFH, then you *may* be a little disappointed. But if you look at the album as a whole, you'll find that really the sound Band of Skulls established on their debut has not been lost. It's simply matured. And, in more ways than one, that's a *very* good thing.