Written & Directed
Foxfive · March 19, 2021
Black Honey charged into the scene with their self-titled EP in 2014, booking shows, starring on the cover of NME, and churning out new music with ease. In 2021, they’re slamming down the door again with their bigger and bolder second studio album, Written & Directed. “The vision of the album just needed to feel like a Tarantino movie,” says lead singer and guitarist Izzy Bee Phillips. “Every time we finished a song we’d be like, ‘What scene would this be in?’” Alex Woodward on drums, Chris Ostler on guitar, and Tommy Taylor on bass make up the rest of the quartet to fill out the fiery sound of the album. The result is a blockbuster statement with badass characters and dramatic action scenes.
The strongest parts of Written & Directed lie in its rebellious attitude, crafting a sound of a dark action film. “Disinfect” sounds like the lovechild of a Muse and a Metric song, birthing one of the edgiest, most addictive tracks on the album. It sprinkles in castanets and a careful snare during the buildup, then breaks into viscous drums and ripping guitar, dripping in unruliness the entire way. In the same vein, “I Like the Way You Die” mirrors the ferocity with Woodward’s booming drums commanding the room as Phillips’ taunting vocals sing out, “I like the way you die, boy.” Phillips labeled the song “vagina rock,” and while there is no formal definition for that, the metallic rock sound paired with the vindictive lyrics paints a solid image. The song would fit into a film like Jennifer’s Body or Gone Girl, with a powerful female antihero you can’t help but root for.
Of course, there need to be lighter notes in any good action film (à la diner scene in Pulp Fiction), and “Beaches” fills that role. With its nod to surf rock, it’s suited for a ‘50s beach scene complete with heart-shaped sunglasses and polka-dotted bikinis. Lyrics like “Preacher’s son, he taught me how to come / Right down to the beach where we can have fun” toy with an R-rated twist to a lighthearted track. “Gabrielle” is one of the more subdued tracks, about a woman pleading for Gabrielle to give her lover back to her, insinuating she tricked him into falling for her. It captures a haunting mood with Phillips’ rounding vocals singing lyrics saturated in envy. In the bridge she sings out “Il ne t’aime pas,” French for “He doesn’t love you,” a conviction that sounds like it could be the precursor to dirty revenge. It’s Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” from a darker universe, with a vendetta carved into stone.
Other tracks fall short of the cinematic cacophony of story and grit. Although the horns and spaghetti western guitar twang in “Believer” adds interest to the sound, the ingredients mixed together don’t add up to the special quality that other songs like “I Like the Way You Die” or “Run For Cover” have. Phillips talks of her inner conflict and premonitions on “I Do It To Myself,” but the abrasive electronic drums distract from the lyricism. Black Honey stepped it up on Written & Directed, and even with a few shortcomings, they proved that they earned their spot in the scene. Its cinematic vision creates a gritty, action-packed album belonging to any female ruffian.