Some comeback tracks are a triumphant reaffirmation of an artist’s genius and ability to adapt to a changing music landscape. Some alienate fans, don’t work out or are just generally rubbish.
Like most single releases though, this fits neither category.
Southampton blues rock outfit Band of Skulls have released Cool Your Battles, their first music since 2016’s By Default and the departure of drummer Matt Hayward.
Straight off the bat, there’s nothing majorly new here stylistically. It’s definitely more in-line with the straight-up rock of some of By Default than the blues-rock of the band’s first two albums and until the chorus this could be a track from By Default. The slightly dissonant pre-chorus segues into a peppy, off beat chorus that doesn’t quite satisfy the build-up of the verses. It flows nicely as a song though and the dynamic definitely fits the pop-rock bracket.
The band have yet to confirm who drummed on Cool Your Battles, but there’s a noticeable difference in the timbre of the percussion. It’s far too tight to sound like a typical rock drum kit and in the pre-chorus, the snare is mostly covered by hand claps. The cymbals fizz rather than crashing, and the kick drum is produced to push through and pump the rest of the chorus. In the breakdown section, the drums, teamed with the synth pad, create 30 seconds of 80s air-punch music which pairs well with the the lyrics.
The lyrics however are the biggest issue here for me though.
“Cool your battles
Stop the hatin’
So what happened to the peace and love”
They’re just not very imaginative and they don’t have any of the aggression or soul of earlier work. “Peace and love” went out of fashion as a lyrical concept years ago but to actually say it in a verse? Not wowed.
There’s a lot here familiar to Band of Skulls fans – the dual lead vocals in the verses, the guitar tone and the pristine production style – but the track just lacks some of the style and swagger that adorned some of the numbers on By Default like Erounds, Black Magic and Bodies. Cool Your Battles feels quite disposable.
I wouldn’t be too upset if the rest of the album is in this vain, but it wouldn’t have me listening on repeat.