From the moment ‘Charlie Bronson’ dropped, it had me hooked. So big it’s almost obnoxious, with silly lyricism, massive guitar riffs and a memoarable video, there’s a clear story; a giant metaphor about singer Izzy Bee Phillips’ neurodivergence, and all the boiling rage hidden just beneath the surface of every woman or anyone forced to fit social norms, as an album opener it’s stunning. Instantly captivating, it launches the tone of the record; it’s the same Black Honey banger you love, but with a new, more personal streak.
And that’s what really prevails across the whole record. For once, we see Izzy go inward in a series of songs touching on topics like mental health, consent, platonic love and beyond. She’s really diving deep, analysing her friendships on ‘OK’ and depression on ‘Heavy’, but the stand out is ‘Up Against It’ – a deeply heart-warming ode to her younger self. Anthemic in sound and statement, it keeps you anchored during the marathon race through four of the album’s singles right at the start. That helps, because sonically at times on this record, you can feel lost.
By track seven the album starts to feel a little relentless. Lacking the textures of Written & Directed with its highs and lows and little details, a lot of the tracks here follow the same structure, going from verse to a tension-building pre-chorus into a big, guitar-filled chorus.
Individually, it makes every song euphoric and is probably a reason why all the singles have gone down so well (quickly becoming playlist staples for me). But altogether, listening to the album as a cohesive project, it can become one-note and threatens to make you zone out into a haze of vocal effects and riffs.
But of those tracks beyond the singles, however, there are still some standouts. ‘Rock Bottom’ changes things up by moving in more gothic directions. Sounding almost tailor-made for a big-budget action film, it’s explosive and sure to be a live favourite.
While sonically this isn’t the most thrilling project from Black Honey, lyrically it’s up there. Especially showcased on ‘I’m A Man’, a song about rape culture that sees Izzy adopt the voice of a man committing the crimes, it’s the band’s storytelling talent at its best. On this album more than any before, the band aren’t shying away from big topics, and the connecting conversation about social expectations and Izzy’s own experience trying to fit in makes for a tight theme and helps land some killer one-liners.
I just wish those lines had a moment to breathe. Maybe getting personal was enough of a challenge for the band that they didn’t want to risk ruining the mood or straying into sad-indie territory by decreasing the tempo, but the album lacks it. Especially on tracks like ‘Heavy’ or ‘OK’ when we’re handling some heart-wrenching stuff, there’s no letting up. Giving the listener little to no time to come up for air, I’m already gagging for some acoustic versions where Izzy’s vocals and lyrics can shine without distraction.
If you’re an indie-rock fan that wants to blast the volume and drown it out, this album is one for you. Sure to birth some amazing live moments as we head into festival season, and give the band a whole new pool of anthemic tracks to pull out, it’s no doubt going to elevate Black Honey’s growing reputation as a must-see live act.
Made up of a series of incredible tracks individually, there are huge high points here. But staying up there for a full 45 minutes or so with the big guitars, heavy drums and high energy, you might get altitude sickness as the whole album ends up a little dizzy and jumbled with the relentlessness.