Honeyblood’s debut album pulled them to undreamed off heights – touring internationally, lauded by press and radio, the Glasgow duo pushed themselves further and further.
But perhaps it went too far. Drummer Shona McVicar departed, with Stina Tweeddale quickly recruiting Cat Myers, before heading back into the studio to work on a follow up, that early promise dented slightly by the sheer weight life spent on the road can present.
Follow up ‘Babes Never Die’ is part of the fight back. In short, it’s fantastic: one of the year’s best guitar albums, a record of spite, venom, humour, and melancholy, one that spits out self-doubt and self-aggrandisement in equal measure. It’s bold and instant, difficult to ignore but also capable of revealing great depths and subtle new inclines.
Much of this has to do with Stina herself. Honeyblood’s self-titled debut displayed a flair for both biting lyric and delirious melody, and ‘Babes Never Die’ extends this outwards, occupying bold new territory in the process.
The title cut is a case in point – all snarling riff and savage production, Stina seemingly intended it as a mantra to get her through the bad times. ‘Ready For The Magic’ packs a real punch, the taut, precise guitar set against those marauding drums, while ‘Sea Hearts’ opens with the two sippin’ tequila, embodying and subverting the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in equal measure.
Opening in a blizzard of punk energy and white hot distortion, ‘Babes Never Die’ actually thrives on subtlety, on being able to switch between gears, to flit between different levels. ‘Walking At Midnight’ is sheer Caledonian goth, while ‘Justine, Misery Queen’ is a wonderfully succinct pop song – a bitter, nasty pop song, but a pop song, regardless.
Producer James Dring undoubtedly makes an impact on the band’s transition past their debut. While Honeyblood’s opening statement at times felt under-powered ‘Babes Never Die’ is a precise, pointed return – muscular, enraged, cutting closer to the bone than ever before.
‘Sister Wolf’ is an anthem-in-waiting, the lilting backing vocals sitting neatly against one of Honeyblood’s most emphatic riffs, while ‘Hey, Stellar’ is almost epic in its delight in the downfall of a rival: “who would have guessed that the mess in the my head split when you left?”
It’s been a very long two years since Honeyblood released their debut album, and no one has travelled further than the band themselves. Yet it’s a journey worth savouring, with the renewed duo seemingly capable of soaking up all that life can throw at them – ‘Babes Never Die’, after all.
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