By DAN MACINTOSH
Band of Skulls, a group from Southampton, England, may have a scary skeletal name, but the music they create together is not frightening at all. In fact, their Love Is All You Love album is a variety-packed pop-rock effort, filled with memorable hooks.
The group’s dynamic incorporates Russell Marsden’s gruff male vocals and guitar, mixed with Emma Richardson’s singing sweetness and bass lines. The album’s title track is an epic rock-soul track that works as a kind of ‘all you need is love anthem’ for moderns. Its chugging electric guitar groove and chorus sounds a little like the softer side of The Black Keys, and a whole lot like Dan Auerbach’s solo music. One called “Not That Kind of Nothing,” however, is as snarky as “Love Is All You Love” is sincere.
On the latter, Marsden and Richardson trade lines like a couple of brash, cynical lovers. Stylistically, Band of Skulls are as adept at creating irresistible dance music, as they are with rocking out. With its funky guitar part and handclap rhythms, “Gold” is lovely, dark disco music. “Sound of You” is a far sparser dance track, which features an echoing, Robert (The Cure) Smith-like guitar line, and The xx-ish vocals. “Speed of Light” is also dance music of the gentler variety. Band of Skulls’ party sounds are more danceable than they are strictly dance music.
“That’s My Trouble” best exemplifies the act’s alternate rocking side. It’s all chunky electric guitar riffing and Richardson’s tough girl singing. Band of Skulls may be categorized as alternative rock, but “We’re Alive” is one of the best unintentional Fleetwood Mac tributes to come along in a long time. Marsden is Lindsey Buckingham to Marsden’s Christine McVie. The song’s “Come on, come on, come one” chorus even sounds like a Rumors-era radio hit hook, while its male-female vocal interplay brings one of rock history’s most dysfunctional commercial juggernauts immediately to mind.
Album opener “Carnivorous” draws upon gothic rock inspirations, like The Cult and The Mission, for a brooding, PETA-teasing rocker. The song’s opening riff feels a little Middle Eastern. The vocals echo in an off-kilter way, while the groove sounds – and don’t take this the wrong way, guys – a little like Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
Band of Skulls create modern pop music, without all the omnipresent trap and EDM influences. They write songs fun to sing, and Love Is All You Love is the sound of these guys having fun singing their songs.