After two fiery and feisty albums, the third release by this Americanised Scottish ‘band’ is a something of a let down. So, what gives?
Well, the biggest difference is that Honeyblood is no longer a duo but is now the solo project of guitarist/singer/lyricist Stina Tweeddale. But this is not the whole story. After all, the loss of a drumming partner should not be so big a deal especially since Tweeddale was, and is, the band’s driving force.
Ironically, the sound on this album is even more band-like than its predecessors. A Kiss From The Devil, for example, is as distinctly drum-led as the Glitter Band.
A clue to what’s missing with Honeyblood Mark 3 comes with the accompanying press release. This gives great weight to a story of Tweeddale returning home to Scotland after two years promoting the second album 'Babes Never Die' (2016). It relates how she was constantly haunted by strange dreams of a mad woman trying to strangle her. It’s as if the promoters are trying to convince listeners that this terrifying personal experience has given her a new edge; in other words, to add a touch of drama to a curiously drama-less album
Although several songs vaguely reference paranormal activity, this never seems to be main theme or inspiration. The official video for the opening tune - She’s A Nightmare - centres on a group of women trying to communicate with the dead but the ‘creepy’ visuals have no obvious correspondence with the song in question.
More revealing are the vulnerabilities expressed in the closing track -Harmless. In this, Tweeddale likens herself to a toothless shark and says she feels “angry with no fury”. Unwittingly, these observations draw attention to the lack of danger or rage in this record. The lead-single The Third Degree is apparently intended as a barbed attack on an ex but comes across as a relatively innocuous slice of bubblegum pop.
It’s as if LA producer John Congleton felt moved to neutralise the material to make it safer and more mainstream. Certainly, any lingering traces of Scottishness, which added character to the first two records, is almost entirely absent in the blandly efficient arrangements.
The cover image depicts Tweeddale melting into the foreground, practically indistinguishable from the wallpaper. What we really need is for her to clash horribly with her surroundings, not to blend in.