You haven't heard of them yet, but you will soon.

Band of Skulls, three super-confident Brits, look set to fill the giant boy-girl blues-rock void left vacant by the demise of the White Stripes.

Sure, there are plenty of bands vying for that particular pole position - most notably the Kills and Jack White's own side project, the Dead Weather - but the Southampton trio seem better set to take the title than most.

And they also have a cross-over appeal that sits somewhere between hushed Brit rockers The xx and the blues rock stomp of The Black Keys.


That's thanks to their particular brand of sizzling guitar rock, accompanied by the dual vocals of guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson, and frenetic tales of relationship woes that veer between whisper quiet to chaotically loud - often within the same song.

They've snuck under the radar so far, but with the release of Sweet Sour, a bold follow-up to 2009's underrated debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, Band of Skulls are destined for wider acclaim and a far bigger audience.

Sweet Sour bristles with the energy and passion of a band with many more albums under their belt, from the opening refrains of "did you bite the hand that feeds on you?" on the slow-burning but blistering title track, to the sluggish crunch of Bruises, an unlikely combination of Band of Horses-style crooning and Pearl Jam's gritty grunge bought together by a hummable chorus.

They do a good line in straightforward rockers too, with Lies bustling along on a garage-rock riff before unleashing with the album's best guitar solo, while Wanderluster comes on like an early Kings of Leon track polished up into a stadium-sized gem.

Tough and tension-filled first single, The Devil Takes Care of His Own, is the most White Stripesy song here, a blues-rock monster that would incite a wild unhinged frenzy when played live.

Then there's You're Not Pretty But You Got It Goin' On, which kicks along with the swagger of the Black Keys and throws in plenty of bar room grime for good measure.

Navigate and Close to Nowhere prove they know their way around a decent ballad, but best of all is Lay My Head Down, which starts like a country-tinged mope-fest before being overtaken by a filthy feedback blitz.

Sure, it's not complicated stuff, but it's moments like this that prove Band of Skulls know what their strengths are and use them to full effect.

Stars: 4/5
Verdict: Big time beckons for Southampton trio with stunning second album
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