Band of Skulls

Himalayan

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Released in 2012, Sweet Sour saw the bluesy Southampton guitar rock trio moving out of the garage and into a flat, offering up a lustrous, loud, and wistful (yet still gritty enough to evoke a few White Stripes comparisons) set of moody English alt-rock confections that provided a little distance from the myriad American post-garage rock revivalists that they're so often lumped in with. Himalayan, the trio's third long-player, takes one step forward and two steps back by dousing everything in a slick coating of chrome (thanks in large part to Yeah Yeah Yeahs producer Nick Launay), positioning the group somewhere between the cool, calculated swagger of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the equally copacetic posturing of the Duke Spirit. The sleek, cylindrical, and relatively soulless opener "Asleep at the Wheel" serves as the obvious litmus test, delivering an immaculately rendered sonic assault that's all style and no substance, sounding a bit like Muse attempting a Black Keys song, or vice versa. It's a template that's used with great frequency throughout the album's 12 cuts, many of which manage to just skate by on their manufactured panache, but there are occasions when the extra dollop of polish elevates instead of over-inflates, like on the relentless, piston-like "Hoochie Coochie," the lush and languid closer "Get Yourself Together," and the brooding, midnight-black highway rocker "I Feel Like Ten Men, Nine Dead and One Dying," the latter of which fuses the ghoulish retro-rockabilly gait of "Hollywood Babylon"-era Misfits with the meaty riffage of Icky Thump. Once again, Band of Skulls have proven that they have the chops and the moxie, but they still need more than a handful of memorable songs to seal the deal.

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