Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Introducing: Band of Skulls



We're living in times when rock music is not very fashionable and, to be honest, downright boring. Many of the "great rockers" are nowadays just middle-aged and self-absorbed and losing their touch. Take Liam Gallagher, for instance: all he ever does these days is bash other artists on pages of various music magazines while basking in his former glory. David Bowie is a pleasant surprise - his comeback album earlier this year was actually quite good, proving he isn't too obsessed with the past - but a large part of the hype around him and the release of the album, The Next Day, was created by the David Bowie exhibition held in the Victoria and Albert museum, with the exhibition obviously taking the fans down the memory lane. So there's that.

"But Muse's massive!" Supermassive, one might say. Sure, the group has given us some of the greatest new rock music, that's true. Yet, even they are suffering a little bit of megalomania with their latest stuff. Gone are the wonderfully simple and brilliant days of "Plug In Baby", "Cave" and "Stockholm Syndrome", now it's all rock dubstep (rockstep?) and whatnot for Muse. And what on earth was "Survival" supposed to be? 

It's not that rock music would be less important in any way - there's lots of new acts sprouting probably as we speak. Newer generations have certainly not abandoned rock. However, there are some serious problems with creativity and credibility. Rock music is flooded with rather generic guitar based, messy haired bands that fall in the category of landfill indie - what a wonderfully descriptive word. Basically, all the music sounds the same. And then they are photographed with ridiculous amounts of cigarettes and Ray-Ban sunglasses and soon they have NME drooling over them. Also, the term "rock star" is used way too liberally these days; I've heard people describe Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga as rock stars! What's wrong with the world?

All that being said, it's refreshing to find out that there is hope left. Alright, all the dramatising aside, there are some very unique bands out there. Bands such as Band of Skulls. (No, they're not goths. No, they don't make hardcore punk.) The UK is famous for its popular music scene and its rock scene makes no exception. Though still unfortunately under the radar of many, the Southampton-based indie rock group has actually been around since 2004, originally performing under the name 'Fleeing New York'. By the time of their debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (2009) they had adopted a new name, the one they've been using ever since. Five years of recording demos and honing their own sound paid off, and the lead single "I Know What I Am" was promoted by iTunes as the Single of the Week. A non-album track, "Friends" was later featured in New Moon. Yup, New Moon as in the Twilight movie. Their sophomore album Sweet Sour was released in 2012, and was musically just as amazing as its predecessor, perhaps not adding anything particularly new in the mix but retaining the great quality nevertheless.

But how is their music like? Well, imagine your average indie rock band. A band that practices in someone's garage. Then they drink cheap beer, and their career highlight is when they get to play at the local bar. They're nothing like that. They do play rock, but instead of garage-y, it's bluesy. It's the kind of music you listen to while sitting in the dark on a window sill, sipping bourbon, watching the street lights and letting the smoke from your cigarette lazily form spirals in the air. But it's also the kind of music you listen to while you're driving around, or dance to when you're home alone wearing nothing but underwear, or jump to while spilling beer on your best mates in your favourite bar. Their music feels true, honest, and believable, which cannot always be taken for granted. The songs do have quite a range, as you might imagine. The White Stripes come to mind, in the best of ways. There are some brilliant ballads like the heartbreaking "Honest" and the wistful "Dull Gold Heart", but then there are the more triumphant, upbeat rockers such as "Death By Diamonds And Pearls" and "Bruises" and especially the pure awesomeness that is "The Devil Takes Care Of His Own". Don't worry, no need to memorise - they're all on the playlist.

Quite often the easiest way for lesser-known bands to get media exposure is through commercials, and so was it for Band of Skulls as well: most notably, two of their songs ("I Know What I Am" and "Patterns") were used in ads for Swatch, whereas "Light Of The Morning" appeared in a Mustang commercial. Furthermore, numerous songs of theirs have been featured in various TV series such as Skins, Gossip Girl, and True Blood and also in a variety of video games. They've also served as an opening act for Muse and Kasabian, two of the biggest British rock bands at the moment. So, they have received a lot of attention, which is great, and hopefully opens many new doors for them - especially now that they are, according to their Facebook page, currently recording a new album. Third time could be the charm for them in regard to a proper breakthrough. From what I've heard, they put up a brilliant show so you might want to see them live if you can. You absolutely should. Who knows, they might get surprisingly big with their next record - they've got the potential - and tour all your hometowns while promoting it. If there is any justice in the world, they will.


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