In September of 2014 there were many who thought the days of the inspired Scottish duo Honeyblood were numbered. Founding partner Shona McVicar left the musical entity. Head unbowed remaining partner Stina Tweeddale persevered, recruiting drummer Cat Myers to provide the new half of the duo. The new partnership released Honeyblood’s sophomore effort, Babes Never Die. The release is a definite progression from the eponymous debut.
Honeyblood was formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2012. Tweeddale and McVicar had originally intended to add members to their band but realized they were not missing anything and kept Honeyblood a duo. Tweeddale provided guitars and vocals and Mc Vicar drums and vocals. The band was signed by Fat Cat Records after their performance at the Wide Days Music Conference in Edinburgh. Their initial eponymous album was well received and they opened for the likes of Foo Fighters, Palma Violets, Courtney Barrett and We Were Promised Jetpacks. They became one of the most talked about groups on the Glaswegian Music Scene, gaining a reputation for their lyrical themes that did not suffering fools lightly and their signature fuzzy shoegazery sonics. Then the bottom fell out when McVicar left the band to pursue other interests. The question soon became whether Cat Myers could fully replace McVicar and what would the new personnel configuration produce? In the winter of 2015 the duo entered the studio with acclaimed producer James Dring at London’s Fish Factory. The new release would answer the lingering questions about the new combo. What came out of the new endeavour was a more refined and concentrated sound loaded with brisk ambitious wordsmithery. The addition of Myers was inspired as she contributed real visceral impact with her drumming.
On “Babes Never Die” there is a fine balance of grit and polish especially with the harmonizing of the duo’s vocals. This time around there is more sophistication in examining both sides of the coin in relationships and friendships. The release is a testament to Tweeddale’s survival instincts and her gaining poise and fearlessness. Where the debut was filled with “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned” themes; this album morphs into something more pointed while remaining familiar. It still aims at loser deadbeat guys but with more emphasis on individual self reliance.
The album starts off with Intro which like the song’s title is a first movement that sets the mood for the release with its wonky distorting feel. This leads into the title track Babes Never Die which is a winning song loaded with energy whilst relaying its feminist battle cry. It alludes to the historic witchhunts and subjection of women and heralds the survival ethos of females throughout the millennia. Take special note of the drums which are outstanding on this spectacular track. Ready for Magic is a barnburner which harkens to some of the duo’s inspirations, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Haim, and Throwing Muses. It is in your face but not offensive with its punk punch that moves the game token farther along the gender game board for female rockers.
Sea Hearts cranks off with an aggressive guitar rift. It extols the joys and virtues of letting loose, “Roller coaster just have a little fun, won’t listen to any caution.” The song echoes the sentiments of the Go Go’s “Vacation” with a punk edge that is oh so satisfying. Love is a Disease slows down the breakneck pace of the first three songs. It is a punk influenced torch song sans the inevitable doormat yearning for a lover often found in such songs. It replaces that worn trope with the recognition that love is wonderful but a disease. Lyrically Tweeddale lets the listener finish the thought with her clever chorus,” I don’t need a cure I just want to be yours…” The song is in many ways a wonderful tribute to Garbage’s Shirley Manson and her glorious lyrics and vocal approach, it is girl power squared. The selection turns the proverbial torch song on its head.
Walking at Midnight is a gothic treat, as Stina’s vocals shine. It is a swirling moody song, that speaks to hidden fetishes and secrets we all have, “Everyone has a thing they can’t shake off.” The switch up to acoustic mid song builds the drama for another great selection. Songs like Justine, Misery Queen, Sister Wolf and Hey Stellar continued the explosive impact of the release that acknowledges life’s personal challenges and relationship weaknesses, all of which leave neither participant totally innocent of blame.
Another stylistic changeup is the brilliant ballad Cruel. Live this song will beckon for lighters and cellphone tributes. The song asks for understanding and forgiveness for emotional abuse that has been handed out in a relationship, “If I said I am giving you my best, I’d be lying to you because I’m a mess.” The song is an introspective look at relationship sins and is another extraordinary track.
The absolutely stunning Gangs is the zenith of the album. It is an outstanding song that snagged me upon the first listen. The brooding Garbage inspired song examines the limitations of growing up in a tough neighborhood”. Stina makes the astute point, “Don’t let your fears keep you here, they’ll turn into quicksand.” The lyrics examine the inequities of childhood that hobble adult promise. The vocals are evocative, alluring and earnest. The track is a mind blowing closer that displays the promise this duo holds for the future. Babes Never Die officially ends with a light hearted whimsical instrumental appropriately named Outré. The song is made up of equal parts recorder and cheesy Casio keyboards.
At the end of “Babes Never Die” the listener will be left to wonder how two people could make so much great noise. The intensity throughout the album is addictive. This sophomore effort really shines and shows a duo stretching beyond their reach and becoming great song-smiths. In hindsight the addition of Cat Myers looks truly inspired and steps up their game. Babes Never Die generates a lot of anticipation for future efforts. In our “here this morning gone by afternoon” music world the release leaves an impression that lingers. Well done!