The Scottish duo have come clattering into their second LP, Babes Never Die with as much vigour and force as they crammed into their debut back in 2014. The first single from the album, ‘Ready For The Magic’ has been a stable part of Lauren Laverne’s 6music show of late, the fuzzy 90s throwback leaps around grunge and punk, before careering forwards and clattering into contemporaries such as Ex Hex and Speedy Ortiz. Demonstrating a knack for catchy hooks and snarling lyrics is what cements Honeyblood as a fantastic addition to the roster of new music that has been coming out of Scotland recently.
The duo, made up of guitarist and frontwoman, Stina Tweeddale and drummer, Cat Myers have always specifically targeted the small and intimate venues to perform in. The sound of Babes Never Die matches this ethic with its tornado approach to presenting its music. The first track on the album, after the forty-four second ‘Intro’ is the album-titled number. It whistles itself towards you with merciless care, it states from the off that the duo have a reputation to cement and more importantly, a desperation to survive in the cut-throat world of music. The thunderous work of Myers puts proof in the pudding that replacing the original Shona McVicar may have been a stressful process but similarly, a worthwhile one. Myers force on percussion duties not only features heavily on the album but similarly seems to capture the atmosphere that surrounded the recording process.
‘Babes Never Die’ rushes into the back of ‘Ready For The Magic’ perhaps taking the award for the catchiest guitar hook of 2016. Tweeddale seems to find support in how her lyrics bite on ‘Ready For The Magic’ and this is largely due to the added vigor provided by Myers and the fine production work executed by James Dring (Gorillaz/Jamie T). ‘Sea Hearts’ does something similar as the Breeders-esque opening chord progression finds the lyrical hook of “Sipping Tequila” before Myers and Tweeddale drop you into the abyss of Seattle-groomed punk.
The songs barely slow down throughout Babes Never Die. The little carpet of respite that is initially presented in ‘Love Is A Disease’ is quickly whipped from under your feet sending you summersaulting into the melodic harmonies and gnarled angst of the duo. ‘Walking At Midnight’ poses a little more calm but it is the snarl of Stina’s vocals that add tension into even the most pleasant of waters. ‘Justine, Misery Queen’ bursts into Songs For The Deaf styled drum rhythms before cutting through twee vocals and Beach Boys styled choruses – there’s two elements you don’t often see melted together, the burning Joshua Tree and the LA surf.
Just to reassure you that Babes Never Die isn’t a totally top-heavy album, hits lurk at the back end of it too in the form of ‘Sister Wolf’, with it’s slightly offbeat garage-rock guitar pattern and ‘Hey Stellar’ which begins in a style not too far from Garbage. Stina’s vocal effort throughout the chorus of the latter demonstrates an ability that we had not seen from her on Honeyblood’s debut album – as she croons “Hey, what do we know” and her pitch waivers slightly, you can’t help but detect a profound sentimentality in what she sings.
The confidence that seemingly now oozes through Tweeddale is evident not just in her vocal effort and witty lyricism but also in the way she willingly fully bares her vocals in isolation, occasionally hiding just behind the tremble of a lightly picked guitar. ‘Cruel’ emphasises this notion and it embellishes the point that Babes Never Die is a real statement of survival and cutting out previous band traumas.
Where ‘Cruel’ may have slowed proceedings somewhat, ‘Gangs’ hits back slightly harder. With a ferocious stomp, you are swiftly summoned back to the storm that continues to brew between Tweeddale and Myers – it makes reference to the rough surroundings they learnt down upon Tweeddale in the Edinburgh suburb of Oxgangs. Making reference to the quicksand nature of fear, you can’t help but see the imagery making reference to the fear that may have encompassed Tweeddale between albums.
As the chimes of ‘Outro’ bleed through into the mix, the celebratory flutes and joyous choral singing suggest that the duo behind the album understand there is truly a reason to count Babes Never Die as a roaring success. It seems the weight of expectation that journalists and the duo put upon themselves have lead to something that is spine-tinglingly honest. It is an album full of purpose and direction, their sound isn’t the most original but their execution of such a sound certainly is.