[sic] Magazine

Band Of Skulls – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey

What is it with collective mindsets? In recent times, there was first rife affection for the definite article when naming a band, and then there wasn’t. Then came mass love of a particular noun, often used an pre-modifier for a favoured stage name, see Wolf and Crystal. And now, a new alignment in nomenclature, Skulls picking up where Horses left off.

This Southampton three-piece come soaked in bourbon and steeped in the blues. Not just any blues though, White Striped blues. Track one, ‘Light Of The Morning’, is comparable to the fabled sibling’s Zeppelin-aping debut, complete with whammy bar indulgence. Two, ‘Death By Diamonds And Pearls’ is more in line with the commercially-minded ‘Get Behind Me Satan’. Happily, Band of Skulls never stray into the madcap oddness of ‘Icky Thump’.

Completing the opening trinity is ‘I Know What I Am’, a former iTunes track-of-the-week ,and highly-infectious stomper run through with credible pop cracked with the Duke Spirit’s blues.. Emma Richardson’s vocal is less than the latter’s inimitable Liela Moss, but stronger than Meg’s throughout. Russell Mardsen’s nasal whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ is satisfactory, rarely more. The unquestionable appeal of ‘I Know What I Am’ is later reprised on third single, ‘Patterns’, all crunching guitar work, dancefloor-friendly beats and memorable, but lightweight, lyrics.

Luckily, there is more to ‘Baby Darling …’ than a faithful retread of the Stripes’ catalogue, some of it a success, some less so. The breathy, acoustic parts of album closer ‘Cold Fame’ recall the inadvisable parts of The Old Romantic Killer Band’s 2008 album ‘The Swan With Two Necks’. For them Leeds wasn’t quite Louisiana, an argument which can be extended here to include Southampton.

The real let down is the lack of knowing when less is more. 12 tracks would have been better as 10. ‘Hollywood Bowl’ is one of these, an inconsequential experiment in pop-rock underscored with childish ‘heys!’, the next track ‘Bomb’ another contender, sub Duke Spirit mewing with novelty ticking-guitar FX. The timeless folk of ‘Honest’ however, whilst not revolutionary, is wholly affecting set crying against its backdrop of blues.