Sound — 7
Slightly gypsy-pop with large sips of garage rock and folk-punk, the UK's Band Of Skulls are a mix of The Redwalls with a pint of Oasis and a shot of Manchester Orchestra. The band's latest release, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey has rations of '70s blues-folk, '90s garageband-rock, and 2000's acoustic-pop. Produced, recorded and mixed by Ian Davenport (Supergrass, Badly Drawn boy) and recorded at Courtyard Studios in Oxfordshire, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey shows that Band Of Skulls perform their best when they strip down to an acoustic-pop threesome like in "Honest" and "Cold Fame." These tracks have a folkloric aura and a dreamy texture that arises from the fumes of guitarist/vocalist Russell Marsden as bassist/vocalist Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward gently brush across the meloodic passages. Not all of the album is cottony soft like these tracks, some of the tracks beef up the bass lines like in "Patterns," or create a garage-rock mulsch with fronds of mangled guitar chords littering the playing field like in "Bomb."
The band is very big on sounding raw like the choppy riffs lining "Light Of The Morning" and "Death By Diamonds And Pearls." The smoky blues-folk tint of "Blood" is reminiscent of '70s classic rock, and the dance-rock springs in "Hollywood Bowl" give the song a dance-club vibe. The band alternates their lead vocalists, Marsden and Richardson in "I Know What I am" which gives the track great momentum as the piercing guitar chords work in unison with the heavy footed stomps of Hayward's drumming and the gypssy-style tambourines which fortify the vocal punches. The soaring distortions in "Dull Gold Heart" are chainmailed in bell chimes and clopping beats, while the melodic rock laces of "Impossible" slow the album to an introspective pace. Band Of Skulls show a liking for more than one type of rock, and they walk that line between wielding a raw edge and polished finish with the skillful strokes of Oasis.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are personable as if the band is having a conversaiton with the audience like in "I Know What I am," with a chorus that resounds, "It's alright, it's okay / I got the time, but the time don't pay." Some songs have a love letter versing like in "Fires" with a phrasing that serenades, "Baby, Darling, Doll Face, Honey / I don't mean to cause you worry... Did you know I've been wanting you... Cause we are fires in the night / Let us bathe you in our light. Although the band's best lyrics are those that read like a riddle like in "Patterns" when Richardson describes, "There's one for the sorrow, and two for the joy and three for the girls and four for the boys / There's five for the silver and six for the gold and seven for the secrets that are never to be told / There's eight in the river and nine in my head, and ten of the the worst guns sleeping in my bed / There's a pattern, there's a pattern that you follow."
Overall Impression — 8
Band of Skulls are unlike anyone else, and yet, they are a synthesis of so many other bands from The Kinks to Oasis, and show influences from '70s blues to '90s garage-rock and 2000's acoustic-pop. Baby Darling Doll Face Honey is an album that you'll find yourself needing to choose which tracks appeal to you. Of course, fans of the band will enjoy the album in it's entirety, but others will find some songs are attractive while others just totally grate on their nerves. It's the difference between the folk-rock of Kings Of Leon that resonatees in Band Of Skulls track "Impossible" from the bluesy rock climate of The Heavy's that reverberates in Band of Skulls tune "Blood." Band of Skulls are masters at capturing the essence of different rock-based textures and molding it to their specifications. It may not be an album that speaks for everyone, but it's an album that speaks to everyone and covers decades of rock music.