Black Honey were featured on someone’s list of acts to watch out for at the end of 2015. I thought it was the BBC, but checking back it appears it wasn’t, so my memory is obviously playing tricks on me somewhere. Anyway, I usually follow the precise same behavioural pattern with every one of these lists: I check out everyone on them, I identify two or three I think are interesting, and then I promptly forget all about them. Not so with these guys. They made an immediate impact on me and have been a staple part of my music diet ever since.
Back then, they had a handful of songs released. Eighteen months on, they have a slightly bigger handful of songs. But it’s very much quality over quantity here. If you take the eleven tracks they’ve made available so far and put them in a sequence of your choosing, what you have is a psuedo debut album, and it’s one of the strongest debut albums I’ve never heard. I guess after appearing on that list I mentioned (maybe I dreamt it) they could have disappeared off the radar for a while and spent that time in a studio preparing a big bang release. They haven’t done that, they’ve seemingly opted instead for allowing their music to trickle out a bit at a time in a bid to slowly build their reputation. It’s an interesting strategy, one that seems both refreshingly new and in tune with the growing argument that the album is dead, and a nod back to a time when bands used to cut their teeth on a string of 7″ releases before attempting a full blown collection. Old and new is a recurring theme actually, one I’ll come back to in a minute.
Their latest release is a two track single, ‘Somebody Better’ backed, in my old, vinyl vernacular, with ‘Cadillac’. It’s actually been out for about a month, but a month ago I didn’t have a platform from which to tell everyone how great it is. Now I do – hahah, lucky you. The former is an all out assault which has elements of the US west coast in the guitar and vocals, but is still underpinned somehow with a very traditional British indie sound. It’s sundrenched and introspective at the same time. Don’t ask me how that works, if I knew I’d be doing it myself. ‘Cadillac’ is slinkier, somewhat cinematic. It’s almost Blue Velvetesque, more than a bit 50’s retro, makes me think of Chris Isaak for some reason. It sounds like pulling into the parking lot of a cheap motel at two in the morning.
Their other stuff is fantastic too though, and don’t think I’m not going to take this opportunity to wax lyrical about it. Take ‘Spinning Wheel’ which sounds like a duet between Dusty Springfield and Dick Dale. If Quentin Tarantino were making Pulp Fiction right now, I’d bet a month’s wages on this song being on the soundtrack. Then there’s ‘Corrine’ which has an almost kitschy feel to it, probably best listened to on an original 60’s turntable or 8 track tape deck in a lime green room with animal print furnishings. ‘Madonna’ is more straight up American indie sounding to me, in the vein of Best Coast or Bleached. It’s all in the surf guitar.
It’s worth mentioning that Izzy Baxter has a great voice which does a lot to pull all of this together. I’m resisting the urge to mention Debbie Harry because that’s such a lazy comparison, but there is something to it I suppose. She actually reminds me more of Lana Del Ray, Courtney Love, Alison Goldfrapp, all rolled into one. Can you see the problem I’m having here? Black Honey remind me of a lot of things, but all of them only vaguely, and they don’t lean too heavily on any one influence. They’ve somehow taken a whole host of eclectic touchpoints and worked them into something that is truly original. At the same time, it sounds timeless and like it’s music that has been kicking around in your head for years. Old and new – there it is again.
If you’re interested, here is how I built my very own Black Honey album, but you know, you could do it differently. Whatever. That’s the beauty of it, it’s entirely up to you. It’s a bit like the build-a-bear workshop, but much cooler.
In an ideal world this would be a concert review as the band have just been on tour with Royal Blood, my other favourite band from the last few years. Because I’m a moron, I only discovered this on the day after the tour finished. Believe me, I smacked myself about the head for missing that one. I’m considering going to Reading this year just to watch them play and then lie in my tent for the rest of the three days thinking about it, that’s how good I think they are. For months I’ve been banging on to anyone who will listen about them being the next big thing, you heard it here first etc. I just think they have everything going for them: the songs, the sound, the retro styling – I mean just look at the artwork, or just listen carefully to the crackles and hiss they’ve added into the mix to make it sound like you’re listening on a slightly scuffed record. They’re brilliant. They’re painfully cool. It’s everything you could ever want, surely.
Follow Black Honey: