For Honeyblood singer Stina Tweeddale, Babes Never Die is more than just a facetious title for a ‘difficult second album’. It is something of a daily mantra, a genderless cry against capitulation and a tag that sits permanently on her ribs. Unsurprising then, that this sense of empowerment is the (honied) blood that runs throughout the Glasgow duo’s follow-up to 2014’s eponymous effort.
As with all things Honeyblood though, the record doesn’t take itself too seriously. Tongue presses against cheek with varying degrees of strength as Tweeddale and drummer Cat Myers take us through the eleven tales of “gruesome romance”.
The chanting ‘Intro’ sets the tone, the LP’s tagline building with increasing ferocity towards its title track: 90s, Paramore-leaning verses develop into the playful refrain; a microcosm of the album entire. “Watch if I float / Damned if I don’t”, Tweeddale calls in one of the albums many dark fairy tale moments. Indeed, a quick glimpse at the artwork paints this Grimm picture; the ambiguous glare – haunted and empowered in equal measure – a perfect window into the action to come.
From the carefree, rollercoaster-riding ‘Sea Hearts’ to the slow-burning, beautifully melancholy ‘Cruel’, Babes Never Die showcases Honeyblood’s ability to both break hearts and cackle with twisted joy, as the duo examine the many strands of love and loss. ‘Love Is A Disease’ waltzes towards a punchy, infectious chorus that sits somewhere between Howling Bells and Deap Vally with its distorted guitars riding alongside fuzzy bass synth work.
A menacing undercurrent undoubtedly runs throughout, but the duo manage to blend the raucous, punked-up hue with smile-inducing colour: ‘Justine, Misery Queen’ – a player in the aforementioned fairy tale Honeyblood are dictating – offers rays of autumnal sunshine with gently hippie backing vocals, while the album’s Le Tigre-esque highlight ‘Ready For The Magic’, is packed with smile-inducing scat and hand-claps, bringing hair-down rambunctious joy to proceedings. “It’s a scream when you least expect it”, Tweeddale cries in her most potent, punk vocal performance.
And it is a voice worth focusing on: chilling falsetto soars in ‘Walking At Midnight’, which, as its name suggests, is the record’s most consistently unnerving, moonlit cut. ‘Hey, Stellar’ shows-off warmer, caramel qualities offsetting the power and spikiness at play elsewhere.
Although much of the success of the album comes from its fist-clenching, head-banging empowerment, as well as the devilish, forest-lined folktale themes, it is also a work that displays quality and diversity of songwriting; there’s a sense that these songs would translate and shine in any form.
Babes Never Die is a mantra for life and the second brilliant chapter in a ceaseless, fairytale love affair with Honeyblood.
Live: Scala – December 1st