Honeyblood grapple with fear and desire on In Plain Sight

Honeyblood In Plain SightHoneyblood’s third album, In Plain Sight, shows some hints of being a very good record indeed, but falls far short of realising its potential. Whether we come to view it as an unsuccessful experiment, a crucial stepping stone towards a more fully-realised sound, or a sign that the project has run its course we’ll only be able to tell with retrospect. 

Honeyblood is currently the solo project of front person Stina Tweeddale, after the departure of drummer and backing vocalist Cat Myers last year. The reason given is the album took shape after Myers left for a stint drumming for Mogwai.

In groups in which there’s a dominant songwriting member, it’s hard to know what influence another might have. That is, without sequestering yourself in the corner of their studio with a lampshade for a hat. Clearly however Honeyblood is Tweeddale’s project – Myers is the second drummer to collaborate with her.

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Interestingly the issue with In Plain Sight is that it seems to be less sure of itself, and less possessed of a unifying vision, than the eponymous debut or 2016’s Babes Never Die. Both of these records are taut collections of defiantly joyous, grungy pop-punk. There’s still some evidence of that legacy on In Plain Sight - “Gibberish” has a timeless ‘you’re talking shit’ staccato refrain, and single “Glimmer” has a wonderfully satisfying 90s-referencing chord sequence that evokes early Dum Dum Girls or even cult favourites Black Tambourine.

We can hardly expect a creative mind to rest on its laurels, and Tweeddale makes efforts to experiment with new sounds. Opener “She’s a Nightmare”, which references a series of night terrors experienced by Tweeddale, hints at Siouxsie and the Banshees-like playful goth-pop. Other numbers like “Touch” and “You’re a Trick” leave a similar impression. Maybe there's a bit of Depeche Mode in there too.

Tweeddale seems as though she can operate in that fertile seam between fear and desire. Ultimately, though, she’s conservative with this approach, stopping a little short of fully embracing the aesthetic. Leonie Pernet's superb Crave from last year is a useful reference point of a full embrace, if you need one.

When Honeyblood fully leaves it aside, the record becomes flat pack: conceits like “Take the Wheel” and “Twisting the Aces”, uninspiring by-the-numbers choruses, a strangely vanilla vocal approach from a usually charismatic, idiosyncratic vocalist – all under the aegis of a bland sort of Americana.  This isn't helped by production that seems to strive for inoffensiveness at the cost of some much-needed bite.

Perhaps that sums it up. In Plain Sight is a fine record – no one can deny Tweeddale’s competence as a songwriter – but it doesn’t really make you feel.

Released: 24th May 2019, Marathon Artists

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