Southampton's Band of Skulls has spent the past decade refining a sound that, for better or worse, sounds like a good deal of other bands. That's not necessarily a bad thing—there's plenty of people who like T. Rex, the Black Keys and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club—but it renders it difficult to see the trio's raucous brand of blues rock as anything other than a sum of their influences. Still, as concertgoers from the band's Tuesday night show at the Wonder Ballroom can attest, there's something to be said for a band that can walk on stage and turn out an hour and half of straight-up fuzz-soaked rock. No bells, no whistles...and little showmanship.
The band opened quickly with the chugging âAsleep at the Wheel,â one of two singles off the bandâs latest LP, Himalayan. Other new cuts like âNightmaresâ and âBrothers and Sistersâ followed soon afterward, but like most of the bandâs new LP, they came off more polished than one would like. Whereas singer-guitarist Russell Marsden strutted around the stage, flinging his guitar and straddling the enormous speaker housed stage right during wailing solos, bassist Emma Richard rarely moved. The two routinely swapped vocal duties on tracks like âBruisesâ and âCold Flame,â the latter a standout, Hendrix-style slow burner with delicate guitar and warbling vocals.
Band of Skulls is at itâs best when the members are at their worst (or at least loosened up). âPatterns,â teeming with lingering notes and dedicated to the few people who attended the bandâs 2012 show at Danteâs, was a knockout. The Southern scuzz of âThe Devil Takes Care of His Ownâ and the chanting refrain accompanying âHollywood Bowlâ gave the audience reason to stick around, as did the powerhouse encore. Itâs rare a band saves all of its hits for the encore, but the move does ensure no one is going to leave prematurely. âSweet Sour,â complete with a Prince-esque chorus and what might be one of the most memorable hammer-on guitar riffs in existence, was hair-raising, while âDeath by Diamonds and Pearlsâ showcased why their breakout debut was a force to note. The show was an expected catalog of sleazy blues-rock anthems. Nothing more, nothing lessâand that's OK.
All photos by Brandon Widder.