Black Honey – Black Honey
Indie Rock | Alternative Rock
Black Honey are first and foremost a band with aesthetic ambition: the peroxide hair, pouting red lips and disenchanted expression of frontwoman Izzy B Phillips is the perfect illustrator of the Tarantino-style melodrama they relish creating. Everything they do is loud, brash, immediate – all except the release of their debut album. We had to wait a while for that one. The indie-rock foursome drip-fed us a string of singles, EPs, tours and festival performances; there came a point where Black Honey were so instantly recognisable that it was impossible to reconcile with the fact that they, as of yet, had no album to their name. At last, here we are: Black Honey’s album lives up to its name as sticky, sweet and irresistibly dark.
The album opens with ‘I Only Hurt the Ones I Love’: with knuckle-cracking Western twangs, cinematic pulses and little-girl-lost simperings, the track reeks of Kill Bill vengeance. Like all good music, it leads you away from this world and into one of their own design. A motif of the album, the best tracks are also wild horses, conjuring up a dusty landscape of suede and saloon-girls. ‘Crowded City’, though dyed with metropolitan, twinkling synths in the chorus, is bound to frontier-style arrangements.
Black Honey explore electronic interfaces with child-like wonderment. ‘Just Calling’ is a patchwork quilt of influences. Anchored by languorous guitar strums, disjointed synth splatters playfully across the track. The simplicity of the progression of the track and its drilled-in repetition gives Black Honey a certain artless charm. Though this album gives the impression that Black Honey would balk at the idea of being described simply as a “guitar band”, it is their strongest hand to play. ‘Hello Today’, with its pumped-up American kicks, has a far heavier leaning on strings that other songs lack. It’s all the better for it.
What is striking about this album is just how chameleon-like Izzy B Phillips has proved herself to be. It seems she wants to be everyone – except herself. Her billowing voice evokes a certain Hollywood cheapness; of plastic palm trees and coloured glass for diamonds. This quality, though idolised, rubs shoulders too uncomfortably with the schtick of Lana Del Raye: ‘Blue Romance’, with its forlorn breathlessness is a tiresome imitation of something churned out a thousand times before, by someone a little better. In ‘Baby’, Phillips croons “There goes my baby…”, borrowing an anthemic, American sound; the lyrics are merely echoing Del Raye’s trademark indulgent misery. Too often it feels like Black Honey are pretending to recline on a sultry expanse of Californian beach, when we know Brighton is the one they’re used to.
Most bands whose aesthetic is a defining factor of their identity tend to struggle transferring their outward creativity into their music. Black Honey, for all their lack of originality, are not sonically boring. That does not mean to say, however, that they’re good. ‘Midnight’ smacks of Britney Spears-style hedonism. The exaggerated autotune of Phillips’ voice becomes weirdly robotic; it’s a reminder of a regrettable era of music we’d rather forget. It’s a neon-pink effort at a Charlie XCX kind of sound.
Though Black Honey’s debut album throws caution to the wind, holding the promise of fun, exciting and genuinely inventive ideas – ultimately, they seem to fall several strides short of what they are, without a doubt, capable of attaining. An impressive exterior masks a lack of sophistication; it’s a half-baked record, but could it have taken any longer?