If Brighton’s Black Honey have always had a touch of the cinematic about them, then ‘Written And Directed’ finds them going blockbuster. Bigger and bolder than their self-titled 2018 debut, their second album has its teeth bared and snarling, ready to soundtrack frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips’ reckoning with those around her, the patriarchy and herself.
On the crunching stomp of opener ‘I Like The Way You Die’ – one of two songs written with The Libertines’ Carl Barat and The Prodigy’s Olly Burden – Phillips is out for revenge. “Treat me like I am a game / I’ll show how I like to play,” she teases ominously in its opening lines, before declaring on the chorus: “I like the way you die, boy.” A reference to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, the lyric hints at a turning of the tables; justice being dealt from those who’ve been made to suffer.
Phillips’ tormentor comes in many guises, though, and on ‘I Do It To Myself’, she’s in a tussle with herself. “I don’t need any help, yeah I know it’s self-infliction,” she sighs over slow but weighty piano stabs. ‘Disinfect’, meanwhile, expands its scope to the world as a whole. Phillips has described it as a song that challenges listeners to look “directly at our reality in a mirror”, and the band sets its message to Chris Ostler’s thundering riffs and Tommy Taylor’s urgent bassline. “We took the test but we couldn’t be taught,” Phillips sings, characterising us as “survivors addicted to the violence”.
Like any good film, ‘Written And Directed’ employs moments of lightness to make its heavy scenes hit even harder. ‘Back Of The Bar’ is new wave-tinged indie-pop coloured with romantic nostalgia, while ‘Beaches’ mixes Viagra Boys sleaze with French pop chic. On ‘Fire’, the band deliver an empowering sermon that finds Phillips asserting, “It’s my body, I make the rules” and “We fire, I won’t apologise”. Her sentiments are set to shuffling acoustic strums and a triumphant brass section, framing them in a celebratory tone.
Not everything should have made the final cut though. ‘Gabrielle’ is a smoky acoustic song that finds Phillips cloyingly rhyming: “She’s caramel whilst I am raising hell.” It closes the album on a misfire, shortchanging it of the finale it deserved – not necessarily epic, but at least one that doesn’t feel like an afterthought that’s been hurriedly tacked on. Besides that, though, ‘Written And Directed’ is a thrilling step up from a band quietly coming into their own.
Release date: March 19
Record label: Foxfive