Band of Skulls – Love Is All You Love (Album Review)

English Garage Rock veterans Band of Skulls return with their new album, Love Is All You Love, due out Friday, April 12th through So Recordings.

Looking back, the early stages of the project began in the late 2000s as Fleeing New York, with Russell Marsden on guitar and Emma Richardson on bass joining Matt Hayward on drums, with Marsden and Richardson sharing vocal duties. Adopting the Band of Skulls moniker in November of 2008, they quickly released their debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey the following year, followed by Sweet Sour in 2012, Himalayan in 2014, and By Default by 2016.

Now back with brand new music, Love Is All You Love is the first release from the British outfit since the departure of Matt Hayward. Rather than replace Hayward, the band—urged by new Producer Richard X—decided to explore electronic sounds and themes. Now comprised as a duo, the sweeping staccato guitar rushes of previous staples is still present on Love Is All You Love, but from the opener “Carnivorous” clear through the closer “Gold,” the electronic experimentation takes hold of all the tracks. Furthermore, the debut single “Cool Your Battles” starts with a stadium anthem guitar worthy of AC/DC, before segueing into a post-Pop hopscotch driven by a thumping bassline. Then there is “That’s My Trouble,” a Garage Rock hit layered with Beatles-style vocal harmonies, while the title-track keeps the Garage Rock, but replaces the vocal harmonies with bells and other off-kilter instrumentation.

Moving on, “Not That Kind of Nothing” features psychedelic female vocals with an almost B-52’s vibe, and Richardson holds her quirky voice in perfect time and vibration over the heavier breakdowns that pepper this track. The pace slows considerably just past the halfway point, before returning to form, only to fade again for the proper outro. On the other hand, airy vocals and the soft echo of guitar help shape “Sound of You” into an antithesis of the title-track; where “Love Is All You Love” is loud and boisterous, “Sound of You” is quiet and melodramatic, all as the cut “Thanks A Lot” features Marsden and Richardson in a fanciful choral duet.

Which leads to the album’s second single, “We’re Alive,” featuring a jaunty Eighties beat which is as effusive as it is authentic; the optimism alluded to by the title will easily infect any listener in its path. However, the lyrics appear to flip their meaning halfway through: we’re the last to leave, and the first ones to arrive cryptically switches to we’re the first to leave, and the last ones to arrive.” That in mind, perhaps it is the journey itself that is important, rather than the start and finish lines.

The more uplifting vibes continue with the subtle, driving bassline of “Speed of Light,” matched with soaring guitar solos, obscured by effects, stretch for the heavens. Finally, the closing, Gold,” is complete with a funky guitar opening backed by a tight rhythm section. 

The departure of Matt Hayward left Band of Skulls at a crossroads. That in mind, Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson chose to take a hard left down the path of electronic-tinged Garage Rock, and they are better for it. Change is always a tricky thing for an established band, but Love Is All You Love will likely attract more new Band of Skulls fans than it loses old. Its scant 36 minutes falls toward the short end of their records so far, but the gems hidden within this short package of new styles is worth the effort. That is why Cryptic Rock gives this album 3.5 of 5 stars. 

Purchase Love Is All You Love:

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