After a quiet start to the year, February sees venues’ diaries finally thawing out and the first hot tickets of 2010 must surely be a twofer by Band of Skulls, at the 100 Club tonight and The Garage later in the week.
Support comes from The Black Box Revelation, whose portentous mantle suggests prog, but in fact are a Belgian guitar/drums/vox dirt-blues duo. There's more to them than lazy White Stripes comparisons though; this is more raw, urgent and immediate, like the Stooges stripped to the bone. Jan Paternoster is a natural frontman, snarling arrogantly in his gak-chic leathers, curling off guitar licks around classic kiss-off lines like “Do I know you? / Do I want to?”.
To the uninitiated, Band of Skulls' name sounds like they should be bad heavy metal, and the title of the debut album - Baby Darling Doll Face Honey - smacks of two-fingers sarcasm. But this UK power trio, full of art-college cool, pair crunching alt.rock and a defiant pop edge, with a sexy, sultry one-two punch in the boy-girl vocals of guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson.
Set and album opener ‘Light of the Morning’ kicks off like this could be some big, dumb rock show, but its Zeppelin riffage is cavernous, expansive, and only a taster of the material to come. From the good-girl-gone-bad sass of ‘Death By Diamonds and Pearls’ to an extended jam on ‘Patterns’, the band’s blues-rock sound sprawls out in great melodic sweeps, circling Show Your Bones-era Yeah Yeah Yeahs, newbies Joe Gideon and the Shark and, unsurprisingly given their line-up, the Joy Formidable.
There are also more tender moments in the spiralling ‘Impossible’, epic ballad ‘Cold Fame’ that closes out the album, and the gorgeous nocturnal ‘Fires’. In fact they barely put a foot wrong, only weaker track ‘Bomb’ letting the side down.
With Baby Darling rush-released after US success on iTunes, a track on the New Moon soundtrack, and the current resurgence of 90s rock influences, it could all sound like marketing box-ticking, but nothing's forced here and tonight in this sweaty basement club, they get the privileged few more than a little hot under the collar.