Black Honey – Bullingdon, Oxford. Published in Oxford Mail 19/3/16
In a world of ever more unsubstantiated glorification we are often treated to the consistently unimaginative taglines of “the best band since…”, “the saviours of…” “Britain’s answer to…”. The hollow phrases become valueless as the predictable propaganda machine splutters into life, informing us that this new band will not only change our whole perception of music, but the very essence of the human condition. Ok, a slight exaggeration but it is with this cynicism I gaze over the necessary pregame press releases and trundle off to the Bully, feeling quietly superior that I can see through the promoter’s gentrification of another desperately mediocre fluff band.
As Brighton four piece Black Honey file onto the stage and lead singer Izzy B Phillips begins the set with breathy a cappella, there’s an awkward hush and furtive sideways glances only for the ice to be well and truly broken as the band smash head on into Spinning Wheel, a dust bowl, pistols at dawn soundscape that demands attention and appreciation. Phillips voice is to be marvelled at, her seductive drawl and high pitched yelps perfectly entwine with the quietly unnerving Wild West twang of Chris Ostler’s guitar work. It’s odd and unexpected and it works wonderfully. The tone is set and there’s an overwhelming feeling of being in safe hands which is unusual for a band still somewhat rubbing its eyes after a hasty decent down the rabbit hole.
There are moments of genuine brilliance in their dynamic hour long set, Sleep Forever and Mothership are quite exceptional compositions and display the bands vibrant mission statement and versatility of style. Phillips singlehanded ability to win over a timid and hesitant Thursday night crowd is a delight to behold as the greedy audience shuffles closer and closer until finally submitting to outlandish shape throwing and high pitched caterwauls.
There are times when Black Honey do slip into potential bad habits and songs such as Corrine and Bloodlust are tracks of a more generic, mechanically reclaimed variety which do little to display either the brilliance of Phillips’ voice or the idiosyncrasies of the groups compelling originality. These are however minor blips in an otherwise faultless and enigmatic display.
Black Honey have something very unique and distinct about their work and we can but hope they choose to navigate themselves further down these quirky avenues of desolate, after the gold rush, townships. Phillips brazenly states in their set finale “We are Black Honey and you’re with us now. Welcome aboard.” The Orwellian propaganda machine is indeed in full swing but I for one am more than happy to leap onto the bandwagon and enter the mother ship.