Brighton indie rockers Black Honey made a splash with their eponymous 2018 debut, leaving them with huge shoes to fill in regards to their follow-up. With vocalist Izzy B. Phillips at the helm, Written & Directed drives home what is, of late, a particularly relevant message of female empowerment.
‘I Like The Way You Die’ is first up, one of the previously released singles, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has previously listened to or seen live this staple of a band. There’s always been a kind of “movie magic” to the music Black Honey puts out, each track an epic tale in its own right.
It’s followed by ‘Run For Cover’ and ‘Beaches’, two more pre-release singles that have been received well by the band’s thriving fanbase. The former wouldn’t be out of place on a vintage spy movie soundtrack, a driving force of femme fatale attitude, while the latter lives up to its title, all sultry sunshine that you can’t help but to dance along to.
The first taste of something new comes along with ‘Back of the Bar’, a far more muted track than its rowdy predecessors. It’s an out and out love song, with its chorus declaring, “all I do / is dream of you.” All of Black Honey’s usual risqué is still there, just channeled into a far softer subject.
Sandwiched between the two latest smash singles, self-assured ‘Believer’ and chaotic ‘Disinfect’, is the new track ‘I Do It to Myself’. An acoustic guitar-led hidden gem that leads into a vast but still unquestionably slow chorus. It’s lyrically quite self-deprecating, with Phillips crooning, “I do it to myself / I’m a walking contradiction / I don’t need any help / Yeah, I know its self-infliction.”
Written & Directed‘s final section begins with ‘Summer ’92’. It pays homage to the pop culture of this time both lyrically (“Dirty Conny’s, going for a skate / We play Nirvana and we stay out late) and in its melody with an influence of both the grunge and Britpop genres that were prevalent then.
‘Fire’ is very much the highlight of this record in its “women to the front” approach, discussing inequalities such as the pay gap and referencing horrors such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence. You can’t help but be moved by this determined stand that the band are taking, especially considering current events.
The album comes to a close with ‘Gabrielle’, which appears to be Black Honey’s answer to Dolly Parton’s 1974 hit ‘Jolene’. In this finale, Phillips begs the titular woman to “give him back to me” because “you have him under your spell.” It’s an interesting divergence from the themes running throughout the rest of the record, but no less brilliant all the same.
As far as sophomore records go, you can’t get much better than this. Written & Directed takes everything we know from the first record and perfects it, establishing the band as far more than a one-trick pony.