Album Review: Honeyblood – ‘Babes Never Die’

Young girl in forest for Honeyblood 'Babes Never Die' album artwork

Honeyblood haven’t just survived second album syndrome – their triumphant sophomore record, ‘Babes Never Die’, proves they’ve thrived on the challenge.

The follow up to the 2014 eponymous debut album from the Glasgow-based duo, of Stina Tweeddale and drummer Cat Myers, has been eagerly awaited. Having appropriately fallen for Honeyblood around thirty seconds into ‘Fall Forever’ – the opening track on their first album – I’ll admit that I approached my first listen of ‘Babes Never Die’ (released on 4 November via Fat Cat Records) with a certain amount of nervous anticipation.

As the buzzing crescendo and eerie chants of “never die” in ‘Intro’ shift into the first chords of fiery title track ‘Babes Never Die’ – a motto that Tweeddale has tattooed on her ribs – it’s clear that they have deftly combined their brand of lo-fi garage rock with the raw energy of their live performance. With the help of producer James Dring (Jamie T, Gorillaz) the pair have evidently honed their sound.

And what a sound it is. Where the title track perfectly blends pop hooks with rock riffs, first single ‘Ready For The Magic’ is chugging and doom-filled with the verses winding up to each chorus like a coiled spring before distorted guitars collide with explosive call and response vocals. ‘Walking At Midnight’ is a change of pace – a dreamy but dark pop song, which includes a raw acoustic interlude in the style of a demo.

There is also much to love about the dark undertones in Tweeddale’s stories of love, friendship, and life’s everyday dramas. ‘Love Is A Disease’ is a pounding mantra of love that overwhelms, with more than a hint of Blur about it. ‘Ready For The Magic’ touches on the destructive nature of infatuation. ‘Sea Hearts’ is an ode to the friend that you feel invincible with – “you give me superhuman strength” – while the pounding ‘Justine, Misery Queen’ narrates the frustrations of knowing a “delusory” drama queen. Tweeddale breathes life into each character through her narration, but also manages to add delicious humorous twists to her tales.

It’s not only lyrically that Honeyblood stand out. Tweeddale’s distinctive vocals – a perfect mix of snarl and purr – are showcased as she explores her impressive vocal range. On ‘Hey, Stellar’ – a song that causes goose bumps on first listen – her voice is soaring and wistful. On ‘Sister Wolf’ she softly howls the chorus in a clever connection to her words.

There’s no doubt that the addition of Cat Myers in 2015 – replacing previous drummer Shona McVicar – has brought a percussive creativity and intensity to the new material. The thumping drum beat in beautiful, but fuzzy, ballad ‘Cruel’ is the heartbeat that Tweeddale is singing about – “I wanna feel your heart breaking”. Myers’ rhythms add inspired layers to each track – creating the polished feel of this album while retaining the urgency of their debut.
Honeyblood haven’t drastically changed their sound on this album – they’ve developed and strengthened it. So, if you weren’t a fan of their debut, ‘Babes Never Die’ may not be for you. For me, each song is a musical and lyrical treat to savour. The squeak of the recorder in the climactic moment of the album on ‘Outro’ is a cute and imperfect moment on a pretty perfect album.

Mottos and mantras aside, the quality of the music speaks for itself. The songwriting prowess and vibrant arrangements that flow through ‘Babes Never Die’ confirm Honeyblood’s rise to indie-pop greatness is very much alive.

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