I’ve been following Honeyblood for a while. The Scottish duo, comprised of Shona McVicar and Stina Tweeddale, have certainly been busy since their formation in 2012. Their first EP, Thrift Shop, was far from perfect, but it established the foundations from which their debut self-titled album has been built upon. They swing from grunge to pop in a way that typifies their name: half sweet, half grit. There’s no doubt about it: Honeyblood are right at the heart of the resurgence of rock ‘n’ roll.
The album begins with crashing guitar strums that defines the entirety of the sound to come. Slightly distorted and deliberately imperfect, it’s a vibe that continues throughout the course of the LP. Smart, snappy rhymes are drawn out through punchy vocals. Particular highlights include Super Rat, an anthem charged with well-directed art-hate, the brilliantly upbeat Killer Bangs, and the infinitely catchy Fall Forever: “I never knew her eyes were so blue”. It kind of makes me want to send Shona and Stina an Instagrammed selfie of my own ocean eyes to persuade them to come play in Exeter. Their lyrics are intelligent and cut straight to the bone, with fluid storytelling that hails the clarity of Best Coast but with more lucid and imaginative imagery. Take Choker: what first sounds like a pissy rant at a mysteriously absent boyfriend turns into a gothic bloodbath of locked up corpses and murderous intent. On multiple listens, it becomes a warped retelling of the classic Bluebeard tale. It’s this variety that makes Honeyblood such a fascinating listen; creative variety that creeps behind epic guitar riffs and shimmering pedal effects.
Admittedly, their colourful lyricism and potent energy occasionally struggles to be aptly reflected in their guitar-led sound that often feels like more of the same. By the last four tracks, it’s easy forget which track is which. The album starts with exceptional strength, but loses momentum around No Spare Key. The guitar bashing that clearly defines their sound becomes languid and less interesting as the album clunks on. Despite their best efforts, the album cannot keep up with the pace of their sound. But do not despair; the overall album still hits hard and stays standing.
Bud, their debut single and the first Honeyblood record I encountered, works well as a symbol of the band’s progress. The album track is very much a more polished and melodic version of the single release from last year, swapping out a distorted guitar lead for an electric acoustic. It strips back the song and perfects it. But does the delight of Honeyblood lie in its fuzzy imperfections? The difference between the two versions shows just how far Honeyblood have grown. From recording their opaque first EP on a four-track tape deck on their bathroom floor, they now have a mastered, almost pristine release. Well, as pristine as Glaswegian grunge can ever be. Clearly, they have grown into a band that can create something distinct whilst maintaining their DIY roots. And that’s exactly why Honeyblood are such an exciting prospect. This album is well worth a listen.