As I stand in the venue room of Leeds’ newest hipster hang out, Headrow House, I can’t help but feel a little bit unsettled. Everything about the place, with its over-priced craft bears and minimal, industrial-style design scheme just feels somewhat forced; the aim for cool and chic has come off as cold and characterless. And, in a weird way, I feel like I can almost say the same for tonight’s headline band, Black Honey.
On the one hand, I really want to like them. They do have some undeniably catchy tracks, and they’re a lot of fun to watch onstage. Set opener ‘Spinning’ Wheel” stretches a rich, brooding vocal over a Western soundscape, which would be as fitting in the pivotal scene of a Tarantino film as it would in the basement of your local indie club. ‘Madonna’ ticks every box in terms of a pure indie pop banger; its array of distorted guitar sounds climaxing in an angst filled yet passionate chorus. And throughout the show the band remain tight, both in terms of technical ability and stage presence. Front woman Izzy B Phillips feeds off the crowds energy, flailing her blonde pig tails around as she shreds on bass, never once coming off as too cool to let us know she’s having a good time.
However, despite all this, I can’t help but feel like the band is borrowing too heavily from other prominent bands in the indie/grunge/pop scene. As catchy as ‘Madonna’ is, the verses could easily have been lifted from a Menace Beach track and spliced with pretty much any Wolf Alice chorus. There’s something about their music which feels somewhat unoriginal and altogether a little manufactured, as if it was cooked up in a lab by a label executive to sell expensive T-shirts to teen fans (go to their merchandise desk and you’ll pay £5 for a two track CD, or you can even shell out for one of their old drum skins). Give the band a quick Google, and most of the articles you find will focus on their marketing rather than their music – secret identities, a cryptic Whatsapp fan messaging campaign and selling their “limited edition demo CDs” on eBay for fifty quid a pop.
Although they’re definitely accomplished musicians they rarely play anything that I don’t feel like I’ve heard done better by another band (aforementioned “Spinning Wheel” being maybe the only exception). Although they are enjoyable to watch, I come away from tonight drawing the conclusion that Black Honey ultimately leaves a bitter taste.