Band of Skulls album review: ‘Himalayan’


The Band Skulls will be performing in the Washington, DC area. (Debbie Scanlan)
Band of Skulls
“Himalayan”

Kindred spirits: The Black Keys,
Tame Impala, Gary Clark Jr.

Show: With Sacco on Monday at the 9:30 Club. Doors open at 7 p.m. 202-265-0930. www.930.com. $22.

A handful of rock bands can fill arenas with a skillful aping of the guitar-playing and grit of old American Southern bluesmen. Some, such as the Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr., do it so masterfully they feel like torch-bearers for the blues.

Not so much Band of Skulls, whose slick third effort, “Himayalan,” serves as a reminder that there’s a blurry line between homage and cover band: It sounds like rock-and-roll but feels like Ambien.

Guitarist-singer Russell Marsden, bassist-singer Emma Richardson and drummer Matt Hayward first caught the ears of the music media in 2009, the same year their tune “Friends” turned up on “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” soundtrack. The attention wasn’t unwarranted: The act was lean and bleating, recalling the Kills and the White Stripes, whose barbed-wire prickliness a decade ago made rock so bloody fun again.

“Himayalan” finds Band of Skulls after a few psychedelics, digging deeper into the crate to the era of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Heart. “Hoochie Coochie” is a bloated little jam that could have come from any of the above. The blandness continues: “I was afraid of coming undone, being a burden, being a son,” Marsden welps, generically, on “Nightmares.”

Like any good baby Zeppelin, Band of Skulls doesn’t much muss with ballads, instead slowing down to deliver several peyote-laced numbers, such as the woozy “Toreador.” (One exception to the no-ballad rule: “You Are All That I Am Not,” a wrenching, gospel-tinged snooze.) Mostly, “Himalayan” pitches like a boat capsizing on a sea of bombastic power chords.

Lavanya Ramanathan

Lavanya Ramanathan is a professional eater/drinker/thinker for Weekend and the Going Out Guide. University of Texas. Northwestern University. Rap fan.
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