by Nikhil Gupta
The Scene: TT the Bears
The Scene: TT the Bears
The Anatomy of a Three-person Band: Russell Marsden (guitar & vocals), Emma Richardson (bass & vocals), and Matt Hayward (drums) have produce an intricately layered and stylistically far-reaching album. Band of Skull’s debut release, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, proves to listeners that three musicians can hold their own. Luckily, you can see this band from London for yourself tonight in town!
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What Can’t Band of Skulls Do? Two songs into Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, Band of Skulls prove their garage-rock chops with “Light of the Morning” and “Death By Diamonds and Pearls.” Then in their single, “I Know What I Am,” Marsden and Richardson take turns with the vocals before their voices combine to give the song an entirely different feel: it’s then that the listener realizes that what they are is a band that can do a lot of different things in a single song and come up with fresh and surprising results. In “I Know What I Am” it’s the way they combine an 80’s sounding chorus with pulsing garage-rock riffs (ones that force us to begin mentioning Band of Skulls in the same sentence with the White Stripes and the Von Bondies). In “Hollywood Bowl” it’s their recipe of one part arena rock and one part 60’s crooning. The bluesy guitars in “Blood” turn red hot at just the right moment—just when we can’t take the smoldering anymore—and then delve into heavy-metal distortions. This is a band that knows each individual member and its collective identity well, and we’re the luckier for it.
Letting Their Emotions Stay Complicated: Surely, part of what makes the different elements of Baby Darling Doll Face Honey feel organic is the shared songwriting between all three members of the band. For the listener, what makes the diverse genres in these tracks especially interesting is the way the album accumulates them in order to show more and more points of connection between various styles. Once the album gives us some raw and vulnerable moments in the standout song “Fires” and the country-esque “Honesty,” these feelings stick around and sound equally at home in the thick ending to “Dull Gold Heart” and the relative quiet vocal harmonies in “Cold Fame.” All of this makes sense in an album that, even at its punkiest or poppiest moments, never veers towards anything like teenage angst. While we may feel that frustration even as adults, it’s always wrapped up with other things. Band of Skulls have put out an album as complex as those intertwined emotions.