The Color Blue
Last December, when I first happened upon the song/video “Roger McClain” by Honeyrude, I had the sudden feeling that I hadn’t felt since the early songs from The Joy Formidable. The song has an energy, spark, and call to action that transported me to another place, reminding me why I love music so much. Each song they’ve sneaked out over the past several months has had the same effect on me. Their music sounds so effortless and perfect, as if the alternately stinging and dreamy guitar-leads (Ian Lund) interlocking with the flawless rhythm section (Billy Kunath – bass, Paul Goetz – drums) have always been out there in the atmosphere awaiting for some brilliant musicians to collect this amazing bounty for our ears to feast. Then you add Jess Leadbetter’s wonderfully chameleon-like vocals and open-ended, thought provoking lyrics and things just get better!
The last time I wrote about an album on this blog thing dates back to June 5th last year, when I wrote about Kristin Welchez’s complete discard of the amazing Dum Dum Girls legacy in favor of an embrace of top 40 dance pop with Kristin Kontrol. I kind of felt like that was the last review I would ever write (here). Somehow, it pointed out to me how criticism of any art is truly insignificant and a waste of time (though what I have historically done is not criticism as much as recommend), not just because I really have never found an audience, but because all art should be allowed to find its way, and all artists need to be to do what feels true to them. Yet, here I am again, at the least momentarily, because I cannot hide away my love of this debut album! I have to shout it from the mountaintops!
Like fellow Austin, Texas band, Magnet School (whose Brandon Tucker had a hand in mixing this), Honeyrude take the more aggressive approach of the so-called “shoegaze” music from the early 90s, so much so, that I hesitate to mention the dreaded shoegaze term (twice now, dammit!). Songs like the closing “Falling Backwards” and pounding “Sorry I’m Late” don’t evoke that era at all. While the aforementioned “Roger McClain” is a straight forward pop song (whose message all of us trapped in some sort of purgatory of our own making need to listen to and act upon) with Johnny Marr-ish light to the touch guitar layers that get gradually more loud and intense as the song progresses before breaking out into a brief, blistering solo. Meanwhile, the opening “Something About Milwaukee” evokes the chiming majesty of early Adorable crossed with last two album Pale Saints, as does the spectacular and yearning “Flowers,” as Leadbetter sings of a perfect love with the tinged realization that it’s not possible. The opening explosions of “Ring Ring Ring” melt into sparse, reflective verses, calling to mind some of the bands of the mid-80s L.A. neo-psychedelic scene, before closing with an exciting instrumental flourish. Speaking of which, the title track contains a wonderful dreamscape, much like a Slowdive epic, but once the drums go double time, the song contains a jam session that feels like it should go on forever and never be quite loud enough. To me “Lover in Denial” calls to mind Chrome-era Catherine Wheel and first album Concrete Blonde (“Dance Along the Edge”).
I use a lot of these comparisons freely, but in fact, these are simply touchstones. Honeyrude, sound wholly themselves. This debut is simply excellent. They sound like seasoned veterans at the height of their creative powers and cannot recommend this record enough. They have lifted my spirits and helped provide me with a dose of fire that came along at a much needed time. What more can one ask for?
Honeyrude "Roger McClain"