Asked once why they decided to present their music as a guitar/drums duo a la the White Stripes (or, going back further, fellow Scots the Jesus & Mary Chain in the earliest days of their shoegazing career), the members of Honeyblood seemed surprised at the very notion: They weren’t missing anything musically, so why muddy things up with more members?
True enough, on their second album Babes Never Die, guitarist-vocalist Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale and drummer-vocalist Cat Myers deliver an even more fully realized sonic assault than they unleashed on their self-titled FatCat debut in 2014. Wonderfully witchy and full of foggy-night-on-the-bog atmospherics, songs such as “Ready for the Magic,” “Walking at Midnight,” “Justine, Misery Queen,” and “Sister Wolf” belie those goth titles with a relentless rhythmic drive and massive, singalong choruses, all honed during two years of relentless touring with the likes of Sleigh Bells, Courtney Barnett, and Palma Violets, and eschewing the lo-fi aesthetic of earlier recordings for a bit more polish courtesy of producer James Dring (Palma Violets, Gorillaz, Blur).
This is not to say they’ve gotten slick—listen to the ferocity of the guitar that kicks off “Sea Hearts”—just that they added more ’90s alt-rock crunch (it’s not a stretch to cite Bully and Tacocat as kindred spirits) and paid more attention to the hooks as they cast their spell and “recorded during several candle-burning stints at London’s Fish Factory studios in the winter of 2016,” to quote their bio.
Enchanting, pure and simple, and arriving just in time for Halloween.
Honeyblood, Babes Never Die (FatCat)
Rating on the 4-star scale: 3.5 stars.