6 September 2014

Band Of Skulls - Himalayan

Here is a band I have not thought about in a while.  If I want to be shallow and pedantic I have not thought much about them since, oh on the 17 January 2013 to be precise.  For that was the date I reviewed their first album 'Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey' (cleverly linked here).  Since then, apart from the odd song has turned up on a shuffle mix, I have not thought about them at all.  No offense, but doing this blog does have that sort of affect on me as there is a load of bands still to listen to, with even more still trying to be looked at.  So a brief back story of the band: Formed in 2004 and originally under the name Fleeing New York, Band Of Horses have been gaining a reputation for themselves as one of the top indie rock acts in the UK.  Indeed, their Wikipedia page shows that the band has been on the rise and with this release they now have three studio albums and two live records as well.  Now, on my first encounter with them I was impressed with some of their work; but the end result was let down by some of the tracks.  Well, it has been a few years since that release - let’s see what they have to offer for 2014.

Well, to start with they offer the sound of the seventies.  Opening with "Asleep At The Wheel" which does sound like it could have been taken from any album by T-Rex or David Bowie when they were in their prime.  It also has a riff that would not be out of place on a Led Zeppelin album; it sounds like a very confident opening and does not make any apologies for being a rocking song.  A decent opening to this record, following on is the title track - "Himalayan".  This too invokes that classic rock sound, with a little hint towards some of the production values of Franz Ferdinand.   Once again it is a steady number, not bad at all - but it is not a game changer either. Next is "Hoochie Coochie" and this is a song that I am sure that the Sweet are wanting to claim copyright over the bass line which sounds a lot like a few of their number.  As a song, there is nothing wrong with this type of number what so ever; but the sound has been done so many times before.  Yes, all rock music is limited as there are only so many notes and chords in the world; but this one is almost as blatant as when Nirvana copied Killing Joke on "Come As You Are".  Still, it is another decent number all the same.  "Cold Sweat" slows the mood down with vocal duty being taken over by bass player Emma Richardson; this is a much more interesting number.  The song sounds like the theme for a femme fatale film.  It make for an interesting diversion form the first few songs of the album and that can only be seen as a good thing.

"Nightmares" also dispenses with the seventies obsession from the beginning of the album.  Sounding a bit more up to date and like the band is trying to create their own identity.  It feels more formed and not a tribute to the band members’ musical influences.  It is another step in the right direction and for this listener it makes the album more interesting.  "Brothers And Sisters" does not have the same sort of feeling for the most part.  When the song starts, it has that retro bass line going on and it feels like a drop back.  However, when you get to the chorus/bridge it becomes much more interesting and it feels like a Jekyll and Hyde song.  It is truly a split personality in musical form.  "I Guess I Know You Fairly Well" is the seventh track on the album, another slowed down number that is very dramatic in place (for an indie rock record).  It has that blues type of soul that is usually kept just for The Black Keys these days and it also just has one of those riffs that could be used to break boulders.  "You Are All That I Am Not" is another of the slower blues number, not too sure if have two together is the best thing; but on this album it actually works for a change.  It seems to be in this blues vein that they are thriving the most on this album and that is quite refreshing.

"I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead & One Dying" is another song which has a familiar bass line and guitar rhythm.  But when the band reach the bridge and chorus sections, they have a massive sound that is very impressive in places.  "Toreador" is the tenth song on the album and brings the hard rock back out to the forefront of the album.  It does not disappoint either as it takes the world by the scruff of its neck and lay claim to it.  When the band does this sort of thing, it is a much more interesting prospect.  "Heaven's Key" starts the descent towards the end of the album, with a much slower mood starting to take hold of the album.  Unlike on 'Baby Darling Doll Faced Honey', this is not just slow for slowness sake.  There is a passion behind the work and it drives on the work in a way which the beginning does not.  It shows that the band is very capable of makes songs which are not just cheap imitations.  Ending the album is "Get Yourself Together"; now this song is not as strong as "Heaven's Key" if I am honest.  It does go along a similar line, but instead of hitting the blues it seems to be heading towards a sunset.  Like most of this album, it is a very pleasant piece of work; but it is a song too far for me.

The band seem to be at their best when they are trying to be themselves, even if it is in the slower moments which I was not too impressed with on their debut; they seem to have matured into this sound and made some really good song on this album.  However, it is in the energetic tracks on this album where the overall work feels lazy in places.  It is a bit of a seventies tribute in places and this makes it a lot harder to love.  I reach that this band will eventual make an album that will turn my head, this one came closer than the last one I heard; yet it is destined to share the same mark.  I can only hope that one day they just ditch the indie and become a full on blues band.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - Toreador

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit the Band Of Skulls website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Here is a link for the album to be heard on Deezer if you are that way inclined

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