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"Baby Darling Dollface Honey" is the debut album by Band of Skulls, a 3-piece alternative rock band from Southampton, England. The album was released in 2009...
--- My Introduction to 'Band of Skulls' ---
In summer 2010 I went to see one of my all-time favourite bands, Muse, live at Old Trafford Cricket Stadium in Manchester. On the day, their main support act was "Editors", along with 2 bands I hadn't heard of before; "Band of Skulls" and "Pulled Apart by Horses". My friend and I weren't massive fans of Editors, but we decided to get to the stadium a little earlier and check out the other groups anyway.
Because of traffic, queues, and a pit-stop at the bar, we got to the stage as "Pulled Apart by Horses" were finishing - such a shame! After a bit of an intermission, 3 little characters walked out on to the huge stage ("Band of Skulls"), on a bright but rather windy day and began to set up. They looked a bit lost on the towering stage, which was predictably glam and ornate, ready for the musical, dramatic and pyrotechnic spectacular of Muse that was to follow, but they still made a great impression on me that day.
The trio produced a great sound when they got going, and belted out 5 or 6 really enjoyable tracks from their album. My friend and I were definitely pleasantly surprised - we only had eyes for Muse at the start of the day, but it was a great bonus to get introduced to a new and exciting band into the bargain. We both bought the album the following week...
--- Impressions of the Album ---
I'm not a fan of throwing meaningless labels at bands, but 'Garage Rock' is probably the best fit here. The album is energetic and quite rough, with some bluesy touches, and you can see the signs of a very diverse range of influences.
The lead vocals on the album are share relatively equally between the male lead guitarist and the female bass player, and there is a great interplay and contrast there. I would describe the sound as rough and raw, and while it's not quite on a White Stripes scale, there are some great rasping dirty guitar riffs to be had here. The bass and thumping drums combine to make a powerful rhythm section which drives most tracks along well.
There are 5 or 6 great songs on the album and most of the others, while leaving a little to be desired, still offer some interesting ideas and are worth a listen. If anything, the album is a little too 'front-loaded', with the 1st half containing the majority of the strong tracks, and the 2nd half being a little more hit and miss.
--- Highlights and Favourite Tracks ---
- "Light of the Morning"
On first listen at the gig, the opening track ("Light of the Morning") confused me. The introduction is disjointed, the first beats of the drum seem off time, and I found it difficult to get my head around the rhythm of the song. However, as the 2nd verse kicked in, and the drum beat started properly, all was revealed and it suddenly made sense! There is an unusual groove to the song which is really infectious - the only problem is that it's over far too quickly!
- "Death By Diamonds and Pearls"
"Death By Diamonds and Pearls" has a stomping beat and a big sound, with the vocals led by the lead guitarist. The song then hits you with a squealing guitar solo which comes out of nowhere and really takes you by surprise. It actually turns out to be brilliant and caps the track of nicely.
- "I Know What I Am"
The vocal talents combine and share the limelight on "I Know What I Am". This is one of the quicker, more upbeat songs on the album, featuring some really catchy hooks and quick fire lyrics.
For me, "Patterns" is probably the stand-out track of the whole album. This time the vocals are led by the female bassist, and along with the rough-around-the-edges guitar playing, this produces their most catchy and appealing song. I understand it has been used in the soundtrack to a Gran Turismo game too - well done!
--- Overall Verdict ---
All things considered, "Baby Darling Dollface Honey" is an exciting debut from a band which clearly has plenty of talent and some strong original ideas. It's been quite a long time since I bought such an accomplished album from a brand new band, and it's still one that I play regularly.
I really think 3.5 stars would be the best rating here, but I have erred on the side of praise with this being a promising début album. There are many more established bands who can have praise heaped upon them for turning out an album with 3 or 4 good singles sandwiched between mediocre filler, so I think Band of Skulls deserve some credit for providing a slightly different sound, some great original tracks, and overall for grabbing my attention.
"Baby Darling Doll Face Honey" came out as the debut album from Band of Skulls in 2009. The release has the Southampton Blues and Garage Rock act getting their first exposure on a broad scale as they offer a record featuring a number of tracks which all give an indication of the sound which they represent and how they don't fit in with what's particularly popular at the time.
1. "Light of the Morning"
The band set things off in a nice way by hitting people with one of their popular non-single tracks. I thought that it was a great way to get things underway as we're given a grimy and drawn-out piece that gives off an authentic '50s-inspired Blues Rock sound, brought right up towards what's more popular in today's current Garage Rock scene. It sets the mood of the record and gives it great foundations for the later stages.
2. "Death by Diamonds and Pearls"
Here's another song from the act which was able to get a great deal of exposure without coming out as an EP. It's a quality piece and one that's likely to grow on many after a good number of listens. It's a very memorable piece and has a sing-song element to it, in spite of the fact that they go for a very full-on raw guitar-driven sound with this recording. I'd expect many to enjoy what's found on this track.
3. "I Know What I Am"
This was the band's debut single and the track which was able to gain them their first little buzz in the music world. Although I have to admit that this wasn't where I first heard of them, I thought that it was a big one from them and a song which would have made me interested in their work as you'll find a very definite White Stripes-like approach of the band with a stripped-down approach to rockin' out.
Thumping percussion greets the listeners at the top of this track and begins to take people in. From that point, it seemed as though it wasn't really saying all that much as although they may get some powerful sounds out of the guitar and drums, the style of the song here is much less exciting and didn't give me any reason to what to get into it in the same way that I had with all of the other tunes up to this point.
This song has the band taking on a bit of a different direction as Emma Richardson takes over the vocals (and so makes a bit of an impact when you consider that it was largely done solely by Russell Marsden up to this point). They decide to take things in an Acoustic direction to coincide with the use of female vocals and I have to say that it went down a direction which wasn't really to my tastes.
As we get to the latter half of the album, the band decide to remind us where we began as we get a much more lively affair here in a track that's much more uplifting than the Acoustic recording which preceded it. This is an energetic piece from them and one which I was well into as they decided to go for more of a party tune. Emma stays in which her role as lead vocalist and makes for a very upbeat tune for all.
The band stick to the real Rock 'n' Roll when they do things in this track. I found that it was the sort of song that you'd be into if you like the sort of sound pushed for in the seventies Hard Rock and Metal fields and together with more contemporary styles, they surprisingly manage to pull it all off without it falling apart around them by confusing things far too much (to the degree where they can't handle the influences which they incorporate into their music).
The riff which opens this song seems to give an indication of what you should expect with this track. Unfortunately it isn't all that good as the guitar melody is rather dark and not all that memorable, and so takes the listeners down into dark places without being able to pull it off as it isn't as intense as it needs to be in order to make it get over with the listeners. It's a good attempt, but doesn't quite work as they try out something Coldplay-sounding.
Emma gets back on to the singing, after having Russell do it for the last one, and I felt that she did a great job at pulling things right back up after they disappointed on the last one. Here they opt for a very straight-forward Blues Rock piece and as they go for something which they seem to have much more ease in pulling off. It comes together nicely, but may sound a little outdated to some people.
10. "Dull Gold Heart"
It seemed as though they were going down the boring, drawn-out Coldplay direction with this song. I really wasn't feeling it when they took it this way as it seemed as though they'd given up on trying to do anything new. They do draw in a little raw Metal guitaring to give it an original edge, but generally it really wasn't going anywhere and so wasn't going to be felt by all that many overall.
11. "Cold Fame"
The band brings the album to an end with this song. I found that it was a nice way to pull things down as they go for a piece which seems to reflect the sort of diversity found within this pretty short album, but it still wasn't really saying all that much (in comparison to how the album started-off) and so it meant that it couldn't do as they probably wanted it to, with it only being half as good as it should have been.
Although I enjoyed this album, I felt that it was really held back by its inconsistency. To Blues Rock fans you'll be pleased to find a fresh act with great ideas, but I thought that they really went a bit too far at times with how they took a few of their plans as at times they made for quite tiring material with very little going on.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Light of the Morning
2 Death by Diamonds and Pearls
3 I Know What I Am
7 Hollywood Bowl
11 Dull Gold Heart
12 Cold Fame