Britain’s transatlantic luxury-liner port,
Southampton is a long way — psychically, at least — from the rust-belt cities
that spawned the ogres of U.K.
metal. On Baby Darling Doll Face Honey,
its debut, Southampton’s Band of Skulls
reckons to stomp its way across the gap. But such massive-attack boogies as the
album-opening “Light of the Morning” don’t quite convince. In fact,
the trio is most effective when it quiets its riot.
happens fairly often on the album, which includes such delicacies as the
madrigal-rock “Honest,” sung by bassist (and album-cover painter)
Emma Richardson. The material tends to be catchier when Richardson shares vocals with guitarist
Russell Marsden: Although “Patterns” and “Hollywood Bowl” sometimes
veer into headbanging, both have hooks as well as thumps. “I Know What I
Am” even has a sense of humor, tempering its metallic wallop with a funk
beat and comic rhymes.
group’s brand of heavy rock derives from the artier side of the genre. Sung by Richardson,
“Blood” suggests fellow south-of-England blueswoman PJ Harvey. With
its minimalist riff and anthemic “I am a man” chorus,
“Impossible” sounds like something Pete Townshend forget to write in
the early ’70s. All three Skulls, including non-singing drummer Matthew
Hayward, are promising songwriters. But their compositional abilities make it
all the frustrating when the band uses a bludgeon rather than a rapier.
Standout Tracks: “Honest,”
“Impossible” MARK JENKINS