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“There is Sexism Inherent in Band of Skulls and Maybe England at Large, or Just Southampton”

Who could forget the heartwarming opening lyrics of Morrissey’s 2008 LP Years of Refusal? They bounce bountifully out of the speakers as “I’m doing very well / I can block out the present and the past now / I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out / Thank you drop dead / Oh something is squeezing my skull / Something I can barely describe / There is no love in modern life”. Ah, who hasn’t curled up with a cup of tea around the holiday hearth to that one?
The crazy part is, Morrissey, originally a Briton from the northern “harda**” town of Manchester that Oasis also calls its stomping grounds, has lived in LA I believe since he’s been a solo artist in the late ‘80s. That means, that’s right: things could be even worse for him, had he stayed in England, apparently. But then, again, Manchester is a run-down town for the roughnicks, from what I’ve gathered, probably not the same but akin to the little black-and-blue-collar scene in “Everyday is Like Sunday.”
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, they all came to America to be around better vibes, apparently — even Bono from U2 I believe resided in New York for a while, or still does. It’s not that important to me really as U2 hasn’t made any music I find vital since the album that had that SONG “New York” on it — but anyway, this all certainly paints a fairly lurid picture of Britain, you have to admit.
Jimi Hendrix is an interesting case, anyway. He moved across the pond to the land of limeys because, and I quote his auto bio Starting at Zero / His Own Story, “I thought I could play louder over (in England), I could really get myself together over there. There wouldn’t be so many hang-ups as there were in America, you know, mental hang-ups and things like that.”
Hendrix migrated into a great, respecting genus of expert musicians, though, in the Westminster neighborhood of London, whereas Band of Skulls apparently hail from Southhampton, a moderately sized city separated geographically from most of the commerce in England, being situated as it is at the extreme Southern edge, cozying up to the English Channel. Does anybody know anything about Southhampton, other than it’s at the South? Well, he** no, and to top it off, the band even pretty much rips off Led Zeppelin and sings about Taco Bell [1].
I listen to Band of Skulls because, well they really rock, from a production standpoint, and there’s only so many times you can put on Led Zeppelin II or Presence and still retain your sanity. Their music is full of bluesy riffs and deep, sludgy grunge guitar sound, which again, is rendered impeccably, foraying deep into the listener’s innards from so all-out rock distortion and glory. In the case of the debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, it almost doesn’t even matter what exact song you listen to because you get that sound on all of them, but their next album Sweet Sour, though probably not as consistent, has certain songs that are even superior (the opening title track; “Bruises”; “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”) to anything even on the debut, the former offering this crazy, otherworldly introductory trill pattern, whereon, like the others, you still get that deep dirge-y sound.
So I just discovered their live album today, the punctually issued Live at Brixton which temporally follows these two gem LP’s and culls copiously and headily from each, and I noticed that it was put out on CD (a double disc opus which got laudatory customer reviews) and is now apparently out of print as it goes for $50 on Amazon, though it’s available for free listening on Spotify. The sound is great, they start with a PA sound bit of the middle of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” (not sure if that is telling in any way), they’re full of entertaining theatrics like mid-song tempo-slows for climaxes and a feedback whirlpool to end “Sweet Sour” which actually reminds me of Jimi Hendrix’ histrionics pre-“Hey Joe” on Live at Winterland (which of course is an American artist in a British band playing an American show, so it’s slightly different). But something is missing.
For instance, even though bassist Emma Richardson DEFINITELY tows the majority of the singing in the band’s catalogue, I really don’t get the sense that she’s truly the leader of the band — guitarist Russell Marsden takes the helm for the initial stage banter after the second song (he’s also listed first on the personnel section of the Wikipedia Sweet Sour page, even though his name isn’t first alphabetically) , which while not bad is just so official and stately in theme that you really don’t get the sense of too much loose, ingenuous interaction among bandmates, or that they’re having that much fun doing this. He**, their output SINCE Sweet Sour would certainly corroborate that certain doubt.
But anyway, it’s like Russell Marsden speaks for the band, which would theoretically make it hard to really get an authentic interview out of them, and on Google searches I still haven’t uncovered anything about any solo projects she might be doing, despite the fact that she’s not only phenomenal at singing and bass playing, but also gifted at blending the two within confrontational, poignant rock settings with a signature effortlessness [2]. Right now Band of Skulls is idling, putting out these unremarkable albums (Himalayan, By Default [3]), and failing to institute any sort of stylistic or instrumentation-grounded progress in their music. And we have women’s marches. And we have feminists, we have Pitchfork writers whining that women need more “agency” even though there have been successful female artists since time immemorial… there’s just so much going on in the world today, but to me this Band of Skulls situation just reminds us undoubtedly that every situation is based on the individual, and, as Aldous Huxley said, “Everything that happens in life is intrinsically like the person to whom it happens” [4]. I just hate when the flourishing of great music is truncated. For a person as adept as Emma Richardson to have not done anything great in over five years is, that is, to me a travesty of some sort, whatever the specific nature most at work there.
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[1] Technically, we don’t even know for sure that there are Taco Bells in Southhampton, since “I Know What I Am” is apparently about activities during touring.
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[2] God, I can just hear that nasal whine of Billy Corgan in that Joe Rogan interview bit**ing that Darcy Wretzky and James Iha wen’t (behind his back) and did a recording or something one time.
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[3] Haha… uh…
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[4] Actually I even cleaned that quote from Point Counterpoint up a little bit: he uses the term “man” instead of “person,” which should tell you something about England and about tradition right there. Just listen to PJ Harvey’s last great album “England / You leave a taste / A bitter one”.

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