Following a successful debut album in 2014 and support slots alongside the likes of Deap Vally, Foo Fighters and Australia’s own Courtney Barnett, Scottish duo Honeyblood make a welcome return to recording with their second full-length release, Babes Never Die.
From the second I hit play on Babes Never Die, the speakers fill with a cacophony of noise, like a café on a Monday morning, filled with too many people all engaged in their own conversations and their own worlds. It’s an intro designed to grab the listener’s attention and successfully does so, drawing you in and heightening the anticipation for the first full length song.As someone who hasn’t paid much attention to the duo’s music, I didn’t really know what to expect from an album. With its grungy yet raw rock influence, the title track seems to hark back to the duo’s previous singles (and the only ones that I have heard before now), Killer Bangs and Super Rat. It’s a great way to start off a second album, both as a solid introduction to new listeners and a subtle reminder for long-term fans.
Ready For The Magic, one of Honeyblood’s most recent singles, has a girl group rock appeal that can easily be imagined on radio. Front woman Stina Tweeddale accent is particularly strong as she sings a catchy chorus to Cat Myers’ heavy drum beats.
Love Is A Disease and Sea Hearts continue the radio-ready feel of the album’s first two songs. Myers’ influence on these songs is not quite as apparent (in that the drums are not quite as heavy), they are solid tracks in which you can feel a certain shift in terms of both lyrics and sound.
While the previous tracks have that poppy sense that lend them to mainstream radio tracks that will see the girls enjoying even more success than they have already enjoyed, it is the more “experimental” songs – the ones that see Myers and Tweeddale really stretch themselves in terms of vocal delivery, musicianship, and of course, lyrical quality – that I enjoyed the most.
Walking at Midnight and Sister Wolf are prime examples of the duo’s capabilities. Broken up by the inclusion of the more “poppy” Justine, Misery Queen, these are two which stand out from all others on Babes Never Die’s twelve track listing. There is an edge of haunting overtones (and a dramatic electric guitar lead-in) in which the girls explore the darker side of their music.
Lyrics trigger visions of murky nights in the middle of nowhere; they capture the imagination of the listener and reinforce that the true purpose of a musician’s job is to tell a story. This is particularly evident when Tweeddale sings, “Walking at midnight, midnight/Let the night-time be a disguise” and “Can you hear the wolf?/ She’s gunna come after you, sink those teeth right through” to a chorus of clashing drums and guitars.
In my experience, ballads are hard for a musician to pull off, particularly when the rest of their music verges on the rockier (and sometimes heavier) side, though if done well, they often make for some of the best songs on an album. Honeyblood’s Cruel Kids is perfect in proving this theory.
The song is almost acoustic in its delivery, with Myers’ drums only used sparingly to allow Tweeddale to shine. And shine she does. Despite the “rockier” edge to Babes Never Dies’ previous tracks, there was always a slight softness to Tweeddale’s voice that I was really looking forward to seeing showcased.
Her voice is enchanting as she sings, “Come here, lay your bones with mine/I feel wasted most of the time/And I’m destroying things, is that a sign?/Maybe I’m, maybe I’m not doing this life thing right.” Cruel Kids does not disappoint, and is without a doubt, my favourite of the whole record.
Overall, Honeyblood’s Babes Never Die is an impressive effort, full of well-crafted, versatile tracks with tight musicianship and just the right amount of lyrical depth. With this album, the duo has certainly found a new fan in me.
[Editor/Author Note: This review was written for AMNplify in 2016. Click here to view it in its original capacity.]