(Marathon Artists, out Fri 24 May 2019)
It’s been three years since Honeyblood’s second LP Babes Never Die and a few things have changed in the intervening period. Namely, vocalist/guitarist Stina Tweeddale announcing this year that not only had she switched record labels but that drummer Cat Myers had departed the band making this new effort effectively a Tweeddale solo record.
These changes have also brought some differences to Honeyblood’s sound. Granted, the garage rock template established in the first two records largely remains, but Tweeddale has expanded Honeyblood’s sonic template, most notably with the liberal use of synths sprinkled throughout the record’s 35 minutes.
This use of synths really comes to fore in the tracks Touch and You’re a Trick which are both note a more radical departure from the usual Honeyblood sound. Both are synth-rock stompers, with the former somewhat resembling Garbage in their pomp, while the latter would not sound totally out of place on a Nine Inch Nails record. Not that either sounds like a pale imitation as Tweeddale very much imbues them with her own character.
These are not the only tracks that may take fans by surprise here though. There is also the likes of Take the Wheel which comes on all glam swagger and sounds like it has come straight out of the Britpop era. Then there is The Tarantella which seems to have a bit of everything, with a slinky almost country-ish opening, poppy backing vocals, a punk rock attack of a chorus, climaxing in a blues rock instrumental freak-out before softly returning to that slinky opening riff to close and all packed into a tad over three minutes. Which may sound like a bit of mess but is actually a delight and amongst the strongest numbers on display here.
Another of the album’s highlights is the opener She’s a Nightmare, a gothic track inspired by night terrors Tweedale experienced. The song starts with a sinister guitar line and creepy plinking piano which sounds like eerie clockwork. Both elements give the track a steampunk Dresden Dolls-esque feel although this stands in contrast to the decidedly less creepy melodic indie chorus. Again, this not only works well but is emblematic of the album’s mixing of light and dark.
Despite the musical contrasts throughout, the album still sounds of a piece, tied together as it is by the lyrical themes which repeatedly hone in on deception, secrets, lies, and illusions.
Curiously though this is not quite the socio-political album taking aim at toxic masculinity that you may surmise from the album title. Not to mislead it certainly touches on that territory, but more obliquely, with only The Third Degree taking direct aim at boorish male behaviour.
Given the tweaks in sound and the transitionary nature of this record In Plain Sight could have easily been a misstep but instead, Tweeddale has emerged with Honeyblood’s strongest, and most varied, set of songs to date.