Have You Heard? – (89) “The Third Degree” by Honeyblood

This is the first new music by Honeyblood in quite a while, and is a taster for the forthcoming third album “In Plain Sight”. We have to wait until 24 May for that. Anyone who reads the musical reviews in this blog will know that I love this band. I first heard the band around the turn of 2016 and 17, after the second album “Babes Never Die, released in November 2016) made it into a few end of year lists. The punky “Ready for the Magic” was the first song I ever heard, and wow, what a good start! One of the best rock’n’roll songs EVER! I played the album to death in 2017 and made it my album of the year. I still listen to it frequently to this day. It is endlessly uplifting, even when it is miserable! My favourite songs, “Cruel” and “Hey, Stellar”, are both break-up songs (either in prospect or the aftermath), but they have a Springsteen-esque resonance. Songwriter and band mainstay Stina Tweeddale has a real celtic soul running through her compositions. A sense of melancholy, but also a defiance, a sense of fighting back.

The NME, writing about “The Third Degree”, announced that Honeyblood was now just Stina, although she will have a backing band when she goes on tour in May. Filling out the band’s sound live makes a lot of sense. While Stina on guitar and Cat Deeley on pounding drums made a great sound on stage, it did feel that Stina needed a bit more back-up than just a drummer could provide. A bassist, for example, would give her the scope to branch out on the guitar, maybe even play acoustic at times. There’s some keyboard programming happening already, so having someone twiddling the knobs on stage wouldn’t do any harm either.

I saw Stina perform twice last year, first with Cat at Bush Hall in January. That was a slightly shambolic though energetic show, fuelled a bit by excessive lagers it seemed. Afterwards, on Twitter, Stina was very self-critical – and anxious about her songwriting muse. She got a lot of support from fans (Twitter can be good, you know!) and seemed to appreciate it. The second time I saw her was at a solo performance at the Leith Theatre, on the Edinburgh shoreline, on a bill with Gwenno and Dream Wife. It was part of the Hidden Doors arts festival in May. Stina played a great selection from both her albums, including “Hey, Stellar” and a rousing version of “Babes Never Die”. It felt to me that things were changing: going solo, if only as one-off; time to write a new album, and think about where the music was heading.

And now we start to see and hear the fruits of that period, with “The Third Degree.” It’s another break-up song, apparently about a friend. The theme is about resisting letting the ex back into your life, especially when the temptation is there, and you’ve had a bit to drink – the accompanying video plays on that. There’s a catchy refrain of No, no drama drama baby, which could have been a great singalong chant in my playground in the early 70s. Musically, the melody does take me back to that era, and the 60s. The song that really comes to mind is “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-La’s. And lyrically, “Walk on By” might have been an inspiration. Who knows?

It’s a great song and sets things up nicely for the new album. It’s quite a short piece, and I was left wanting more as it ended – a guitar solo or even some sax. That’s my Bruce influence I guess. But you know, I think they may have something in common – that rock’n’roll sensibility, the gift of melancholy melody and a belief in the redeeming power of music. Which is why they are two of my favourite artists of all time. One stretching back to my late 70s youth, the other all the way back to 2016! Both the Honeyblood albums, despite their recent vintage, have broken into my all time top twenty (and “Babes Never Die” the top five) where they nestle with the likes of Bruce, The Clash, Elvis Costello, U2, Bowie, Bobs Marley and Dylan, Radiohead, Talking Heads, Van the Man and Television. Let’s hope “In Plain Sight” makes it a hat trick!

 

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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7 Responses to Have You Heard? – (89) “The Third Degree” by Honeyblood

  1. dc says:

    Only four albums better than Babes Never Die in the entire history of popular music?- even Stina would thing you are bonkers. The new single is OK, catchy chorus. Phil Spector was doing that stuff over 50 years ago.

    • John S says:

      Read the sentence carefully: MY top 20 (and 5). A world of difference between that and the establishment consensus, which still ignores most things written since 1980, apart from Radiohead.
      And if we were to dismiss things because they sounded a bit like stuff that went before, we’d largely have given up on music by now, other than some of the more experimental electronic sounds. And we certainly wouldn’t have spent two hours watching Rival Sons the other day!
      So yeah, “Babes Never Die” rools, and sorry “Sgt Pepper”!

  2. Resa says:

    That was great! I’m now a fan of Honeyblood.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks. You might have seen the wag on YouTube who is hearing “no, no, drummer drummer baby”, and it’s certainly a different sound from the raw, Royal Blood-inflected two-piece rock that they pulled off so effectively. (If not quite making it the greatest album in music history, if I read your post correctly.) So, yes, I agree – Spector-ish, more mainstream, more measured and polished. It’ll be interesting to see if this is indicative of a different type of sound – or perhaps a smart, catchy and accessible piece to float on Vevo ahead of the rest of the album. Not a bad strategy if so?

    You know the HB psychodramas better than most – but it’s not difficult to imagine that the two-piece approach was not only cramping her musical ambitions, but perhaps proving too intense on a personal level? Wouldn’t blame her if so.

    • John S says:

      Thanks Dood, for it is you! Yes, I suspect the whole thing will be more polished. Perfectly sensible move – looking to expand the fan base. And I imagine two is a tricky number, especially if your thinking starts to diverge. I’m really looking forward to hearing more – “The Third Degree” is a good start to the next phase.

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