When I first heard Honeyblood’s single “Bud,” back on a very chilly evening last winter, I instantly fell in love. They somehow captured the momentous bright shining energy of Belly’s “Feed the Tree” and crossed it with the lazy hot summer afternoon vibe of Mazzy Star’s “Halah.” For anyone that has known me for a long time, they most likely know that I played those two songs to death upon their respective releases twenty plus years ago. These were songs that I simply could not get enough of. Over and over again, I’d play them. “Bud” has been exactly the same. The vinyl may have to be replaced soon, because the chiming guitar, crashing cymbals and soaring dual vocal chorus of Stina Tweeddale and Shona McVicar reminding me that “it’s not your fault at all” have been like a blissful narcotic, but the grooves are starting to dull from overuse. When I was lucky enough to see Honeyblood open for We Were Promised Jetpacks back in February, I was noticeably disappointed that they didn’t follow their performance of “Bud” with a second one, because I always listen to it at least twice. If there are any copies of the single left, I highly recommend tracking down the vinyl, but at least snag the download, because the B-side “Kissing on You” is also a wonderful piece of pure pop a la Best Coast, but as filtered through early Spinanes (think “Suffice” or ‘Spitfire”) guitar/drum simplicity.
It seems like it’s been eons since I’ve been waiting for Honeyblood’s album to finally be released, but finally it has arrived and it does not disappoint. This Glasgow duo’s self-titled debut lives up to the promise of “Bud” and has me brimming with excitement. I’ve never been one to take much stock in historical heritage, but sometimes I wonder if the bit of Scottish in my family’s bloodline is why I love so many Scottish bands and why I approach almost anything that I love with at least a small touch of dread and trepidation. The opening song “Fall Forever” begins with an urgent guitar strum before bursting into a Pale Saints-like hazy and grinding fuzz of beautiful noise that somehow both finds comfort and solace in the early excitement of a fresh new crush, yet the lyrics are filled with harsh images of blood, lambs to the slaughter, punching and scratching. In other words, this song is pretty much perfect. It simply continues on from there. Stina’s vocals and lyrics effortlessly roll off her tongue in such a natural conversational way. In “(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere but Here,” she rattles off her escape plans from her childhood locale and common theme, but here it sounds so tangibly identifiable and the music is absolutely brilliant. The echo-laden guitar layers and steady heavy beat evoke the huge sound of Whipping Boy’s 1995 masterpiece Heartworm. The similar sounding “Biro” presents us with allusions to frustrations and the futility of writing about the human condition (“If I threw my pen into the sea / I know there will be someone to write after me”). When does one cross the line from identifiable troubles to simply whining?
“Bud” reappears on the album in an altered state, which of course, gives me ample excuse to begin listening to it as much as I did last winter. Peter Katis’ production on this version is interesting, because he strips away the Mazzy Star blur, which gives Stina’s vocals a softer plaintive feel and Shona’s drums a bigger impact. Luckily, Katis does not mess with the glory of that spectacular chorus. Newest single “Super Rat,” is a vicious indictment of someone who has wronged them in love and with zero subtlety with a chorus of “I will hate you forever” and this: “SCUMBAG! SLEAZE! SLIMEBALL! GREASE! You really do disgust me!!”
The second half of this album loses zero momentum. “Choker” begins with a classic rock riff and pounding rock drums, all while providing a sinister peak into a troubling relationship (“What doesn’t kill you / just makes you stronger”). Meanwhile, “No Spare Key” provides one of the sparest arrangements, Stina’s free flowing words, and a bridge to die for. The pure pop side of Honeyblood shines through as “Joey” comes in with a bounce in its step and some fantastic vocal melodies, as does the handclaps and pop waltz of the breezy “Fortune Cookie.” They also bring on song straight ahead rock with the shout-along ‘Killer Bangs” and another diss with “All Dragged Up” (“Why won’t you grow up?”).
“Braidburn Valley” closes this incredible debut with a moody isolated autumnal walk outside that slowly reveals some kind of deep hurt, before breaking into a blistering buzz revealing that the hurt is both mental and physical (“Another fucking bruise / This one looks just like a rose”). The simple imagery is amazing and intriguing and tells so much more than the thrifty use of lyrics.
All I can say is: get the album, see them live, and support this music.
Honeyblood "Super Rat"