Band Of Skulls – By Default album review

Album review – British rockers Band Of Skulls add Iggy Pop and T.Rex to the mix on their fourth album

Band Of Skulls By Default album cover

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Blues rock is very much like trench warfare – once you’ve dug yourself in, it’s virtually impossible to progress. So kudos to Southampton’s Band Of Skulls, erstwhile purveyors of mountain range blues epics and granite-guitar funk-outs, whose fourth album finds them bounding out of their furrow on kangaroo stilts of fresh ideas.

They’ve grown a rock-wide reach. Back Of Beyond rewrites Iggy’s Real Wild Child (Wild One) and T.Rex’s I Love To Boogie into a Kentucky biker bar crawl, all Elvis hip-quakes, sex-snake snarls and lyrics that’ll even have Jim Steinman wondering if Jim Steinman wrote them: ‘I’ve seen the good go bad, I’ve seen the right go wrong, from the middle of the city to the back of beyond.’

Tropical Disease is a cinematic rhumba evoking 60s detective themes, about catching a dose of emotional ebola from some mosquito of a lover and squitting your heart out of your red-raw jacksie. There’s diplodocus disco (So Good, Bodies), malign, spoken-word nu blues (Singing), Depeche Mode synth noir (Embers) and even a walloping great glam tune built on scat jazz rhythms (This Is My Fix). Cockily adventurous, By Default is a plasma grenade lobbed out of the blues rock trenches.

Mark Beaumont is a music journalist with almost three decades' experience writing for publications including Classic Rock, NME, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Uncut and Melody Maker. He has written major biographies on Muse, Jay-Z, The Killers, Kanye West and Bon Iver and his debut novel [6666666666] is available on Kindle (opens in new tab).