Album – Written And Directed
Black Honey are a British indie rock band from Brighton formed in 2014. While only having their debut album out until now, 2018s self-titled effort, they have managed to establish themselves as one of the leading lights of modern British indie already, racking up millions of streams of some of their biggest hits. An impressive feat for a band who have also largely stayed independent of any sort of major record label thus far, a fantastic growing trend in modern music. Now, I’m not going to lie, while I am British, I’m not too into indie music, so I feel like I have never even heard of this band before. I was planning on doing a Saxon review today until I realised that their new album is a covers one, so I had to quickly scramble to find some new content. However, after listening to a very brief few seconds of a couple of the songs of this album, I’m curious, it sounds like it could be a lot of fun. So, whether you’re a fan of the band or unaware like I am, join me in checking out their new album, Written and Directed!
The biggest single off the album so far, I Like the Way you Die, is up first! Opening on a simple beat and some low synth, Izzy Phillips’ vocals and Chris Ostler’s guitar soon come in over the top, contrasting nicely with each other. Izzy’s vocals are powerful and with the subtle distortion they sound great, fitting the tone and the genre perfectly. A short pre leads to a huge sounding, if a little samey chorus. The vocals are catchy and the little backing ‘woo’s add a nice dynamic to it all, but it is generally pretty similar to the verse. The second verse mixes it up by having the piano on its own for a bit instead of the guitars, before it all gets build back in for the pre again. We get a sort of guitar solo after the second chorus, an awesome little mucky bridge/breakdown. It then heads into a final chorus to finish. This felt a lot more like the US style of indie than the British style, and it actually won me over quite a lot. It was simple, inoffensive and rockier than I was expecting. If the whole album is like this, they may very well have gained a new fan!
Time for another single (a running theme with the album (pun intended)), Run for Cover. This one has a great psychedelic guitar intro before the song heads into a short little post-britpop, punky low bass riff. They alternate between the two riffs during the verse, with Izzy’s vocals surprisingly working great over the top of both of them. The song then drops down to drums and some high notes for a pre before ramping the speed and intensity back up for a great chorus. It’s short and sweet but very catchy, the lyrics fitting perfectly with the faster guitar riff and drums. Everything dropping out for the last line was a nice touch too, and one that would no doubt go over great live. It drops down a little again after the second chorus into a little bridge, building up and up. The drums and bass then drop out and leave the vocals over the top of a grungy, heavily distorted guitar riff and it sounds awesome, reminding me a lot of Arctic Monkeys’ first album. It bursts back into a final double chorus to finish and this was awesome, easily playlisted!
And now we reach the first single released from the album, Beaches. It opens on a pretty catchy clapping beat before the drums and bass join in behind it for the verse. Unfortunately, the chorus didn’t really do a lot for me. Like the first song they keep the same beat throughout and while the guitar and what sounded like some horns joined in for it, for me it didn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the verse. It wasn’t any more catchy or much different dynamically, it was just kind of there. The dropout chorus for the first half of the second one was maybe the most entertaining part of it, aside the awesome horns in the background. They should have been a bigger focus of the song, but that may have just been me, I’m a sucker for brass instruments in rock music. The song was good if you like this sort of music, but it was a tad repetitive for me personally.
We finally reach the first non-single, Back of the Bar. It opens on a basic, quite drumbeat before the bass and vocals come in. It again sounds a lot more like the US style than our one, giving off Cold War Kids kind of vibes. The subtle synth behind some of the vocals were a nice touch though, adding some nice depth to the verse. The instruments swell heading into the chorus and Izzy’s vocals sore higher, both sounding awesome. It’s a little repetitive but it’s very catchy and a great, radio-friendly, slower chorus. We get a short bridge before another chorus to finish. While not as rocky or agro than the last few songs, I actually really enjoyed this. It was calm and relaxing, a style of indie that we don’t have a lot of in this country. Playlisted.
Believer opens almost straight into the chorus, some great backing vocals adding even more catchiness to the simple lyrics. The verse drops down a little into just piano, vocals and a simple drumbeat before exploding into another huge chorus. It is this kind of dynamics that I love, making clear distinctions between the parts of the song and, in turn, making the chorus sound ten times bigger and anthemic. There are also more horns in this after the choruses, sounding really great, even if they do sound a little like the Brooklyn 99 theme. The ‘born again’ repeating over and over was a tad on the nose for my liking, but generally the lyrics were pretty well written. This whole song was fantastic from start to finish, my favourite song on the album so far and again easily playlisted! Oh, and it was a fantastic choice for a single, too.
I Do it to Myself opens slower and more stripped back with just vocals and an acoustic guitar. The band slowly get built in heading into another huge, slower chorus. More catchy vocals singing some surprisingly great lyrics (walking contradiction will forever be my favourite line in any song, Green Day or this). The horns return after the chorus and give this almost a jazz feel to it, moreso than the others to feature them, most likely due to the slower tempo. There isn’t too much more to this song, the bridge between the second and final chorus is just the opening acoustic guitar chords again. Overall, another very enjoyable song!
Disinfect is the final single from the album. It opens on a low bassline, the vocals coming in over the top before some clean guitar and a basic drumbeat are added in too. The pre was great, the vocals following almost the same melody as the palm-muted guitar behind it. It then explodes into the heaviest part of the album, a huge low riff that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Royal Blood song. The vocals over the top are again a little repetitive but it works perfectly here. We get an equally heavy bridge before it heads into a final, stripped back chorus and then the heavy bridge again as an outro. This was exactly the kind of thing I love, grungy, heavy stuff after a few lighter songs, it sets the pace again perfectly and even in its own right is a damn good song. Playlisted!
After the awesomeness of the last track the final few songs, Summer ’92, Fire and Gabrielle fall a little short to me. None of them are bad songs by any stretch, but compared to the rest of the album they are all relatively slow and steady, something I always hate with the end of albums. There just isn’t too much memorable about them, which is a shame because on their own they are good songs. Maybe it’s just a case of the front of the album being a bit too top heavy for me; 4/5 of the first half of the album were released as singles, so maybe it would need a slight rearrangement in order to appeal to me more specifically. But, again, this is solely my opinion, if you like slower indie music, you’ll probably love all three of these tracks!
Overall: I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would have! There were some really great songs on here, both slower and lighter and more of the rocky side of things like I am used to. I’ve had a couple of them stuck in my head since I first heard them too, which is always a good sign! I’ll definitely be listening to those I playlisted more and will have to go back and check out their first album!
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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths