PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Band of Skulls: Baby Darling Doll Face Honey

British rockers' debut is fuzzy, stompy, if a bit overstuffed.

Band of Skulls

Baby Darling Doll Face Honey

Label: Artist First
US Release Date: 2009-07-28
UK Release Date: 2009-04-07

Band of Skulls are a bit rough around the edges. This is surely something they'd be proud of. On Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, their debut, the band specializes in boozy stomps, strained yelps, and fuzzed-out guitar riffs as wide as a Georgia Highway. Pure rock and roll, one might say: messy and loud and featuring intentionally-poorly-thought-out lyrics (not to imply that “Hotel/Taco Bell”, from their “I Know What I Am” is not an inspired couplet). But then -- and isn't there always a “but” -- you'll remember that I said they “specialize” in the above. They don't, unfortunately, limit their practice to it.

In fact, the record is something of a mish-mash of three or four styles, recalling as many different artists, with songs written by all three band members and sung by two of them. If that sentence was dizzying to read, imagining hearing the album. It's as if every cast member of Friends got to write and direct a different scene in a single episode. It's as if every third letter on this page were a different color. It's just, shall we say, a bit jarring.

Some of this is surely due to poor curatorial instincts. The band proudly announces in their press notes that they formed as a band in Southampton, England, just months before they began recording their debut album. Yet the album features 16 songs, a suspiciously high number even for a band firing on all cylinders, let alone one where the members barely know each other. Some of these tracks could probably have been saved for the solo projects, the tour, or, at least, for the next record. This is just to say that there are the makings of a focused, tight rock record here, but you have to dig for it amidst everything else.

Tracks like "I Know What I Am", "Light of the Morning”, “Death by Diamonds and Pearls”, and a few others are the real gems. Blistering, echo-y, stomp-alongs, it's not hard to picture the band, lovingly tattooed, belting them out in a moldy basement to a room of a few dozen smelly degenerates. They're real, and what the band does best.

But then there's a song like "Fires". It starts off like a hard-rocking, hollow-bodied-guitar-reliant outtake from Radiohead's The Bends, but by the first chorus it's added a bit of Stars-ish indie/emo, then it veers a bit more into Southern rock, and then it's back to aping Thom Yorke again by the next verse. If it sounds confusing, well, it is. “Impossible” tries to combine the martial snares of U2 or Coldplay with some Clap Your Hands Say Yeah-style wailing, and, yes, just a hint of Southern rock. And there's "Honest", a sensitive, acoustic guitar meditation sung by bassist Emma Richardson, who has a few other similar tracks on the record (“Dull Gold Heart”, and others).

Songs like this aren't bad. There's isn't a “bad” song on Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (which is, by the way, the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity of album titles). There's just not a unified sound, and by extension, a unified group of artists behind it. At bottom, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey is a promising debut from a band with more than one talented songwriter and more than a few ideas rolling around their collective heads. Here's hoping they find their legs and refine their focus by the second record.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.