Honeyblood’s second album comes in the wake of a line-up change—and when there’s only two of you in the band, that’s pretty significant. This is certainly proven to be the case; Cat Myer’s hurried drafting following drummer, Shona McVicar’s surprise departure in 2014, lends ‘Babes Never Die’ a new sense of raucous energy.
Where the duo’s self-titled debut dealt in sugar-tinged low-fi, Honeyblood’s sophomore album is an ode to the guitar. The title track is a case-in-point, with its biting riffs and savage production that lends it a ‘fuller,’ more polished rock sound than that of the band’s previous LP —but not too polished so as to lose the debut’s fresh energy. Rather, it’s a refinement.
"Babes represents a more coherent album than its predecessor"
The enhanced production of Babes is also matched by Tweedale’s rapid development as a songwriter. While Honeyblood was awash with tracks about Tweedale’s own experience, for Babes she moves further outside of her comfort zone: ‘Sea Hearts’ is about the experiences of a close friend, and inverts the heartbroken woman/ callous man stereotype, while ‘Hey Stellar,’ which focuses on a betraying ‘bitch’ and ‘Justine, Misery Queen,’ showcase a dabbling in nuanced character study. All the album’s characters are ones you could do without, but the record is thematically richer for them.
On the subject of theme, Babes represents a more coherent album than its predecessor. Rubbish men were aimed at scattershot last time around, but the follow-up more successfully sustains its ethos of not just surviving, but fighting; the feminist defiance of the opening track is carried through right until the album’s close, where it finds new form in the class-based anger of ‘Gangs.’
Though McVicar’s departure could have marked disaster for the band, Tweedale found strength in adversity to craft the band’s strongest album yet.