Black Honey’s second album is anything but the infamous sophomore jinx, instead the band go from strength to strength with every release. ‘Written and Directed’ is a Tarantino-esque visual album, with the music videos being heavily influenced by kitschy pulp films and grindhouse cinema, the band assert themselves as cinematic connoisseurs whereby their talents extend to the big screen as well as the stage.
Izzy Bee Phillips finds herself as a protagonist of many different storylines within the album, we see the femme fatale of the vampire figure of ‘I Like the Way You Die’ surrounded by equally bewitching women whose commanding presence dominates the narrative. Yet it is in ‘Run for Cover’ where Phillips really plays with the stereotypical ‘role of women’, starting off the song dressed in a hyper-feminine sixties aesthetic whilst swaying delicately. On the second frame, she turns rock’n’roll when she swaps her dress for a leather jacket and her perfectly placed beehive falls out of place as she actively embodies the song dancing around. In her final look she sports punky pink hair as she jumps around energetically in a tweed suit. Although all three of these personas are starkly different they all embody disparate parts of her personality, with this song Phillips fights against the idea that to be a woman one must be two dimensional, as she screams ‘You should run for cover’ warning against anyone who tries to put her in a box. This empowered perspective doesn’t stop here as it fuels the entire record, culminating in the representation of Jesus as a black woman in ‘Believer’, whereby a lost and vulnerable Phillips is mistaken for a villainous nun character but upon meeting Jesus, her faith is restored. This track speaks to faith not just in the religious sense, but faith in oneself, belief in one’s goals and thus creates a gospel speaking directly to that.
Don’t worry, much like a pulp film genre there is a party scene, and that comes in the form of ‘Beaches’ even without the music video this stands out as the happy-feel-good track which embodies all the surfer rock aesthetic you could wish for. The visuals are hypnotising timestamps for 2020 as we see Phillips dress up as Joe Exotic in this home made music video, its definitely a perfect example of artists making the most out of the catastrophic year we’ve just had, all whilst smiling through it and doing the iconic sixties dance moves: The Swim, The Watusi and The Twist. Speaking of catastrophic years, another notable nod to these pandemic ridden times is ‘Disinfect’ which is paired with the videos of news anchors and statistics to scaremonger the viewer, as lyrics poignantly yell ‘Disinfect the disaffected’ to show how the virus goes deeper, and speaks to more than just an infection of the body, but one of the mind: ‘We are just a virus, // Addicted to the violence’.
The record’s penultimate song highlights an important message, reiterating the feminist undertones and transforming them into glaringly obvious overtones. ‘Fire’ is about reinvigorating fearlessness into the listener and whilst doing so Phillips gets to remind herself: ‘I’m not yours I don’t belong to you, it’s my body I make the rules I can do what I want to’. It’s so important for women everywhere to hear this, and knowingly so this song embodies that strong female guidance, almost acting as a 3 minutes and 17 seconds of empowering affirmations, repeat the lines until such fearlessness is restored into your life, implores Phillips.
‘Gabrielle’ is the final track, and brings the album to close by showing what still needs to be abolished, girl on girl hate. The track is Black Honey’s version of ‘Jolene’ whereby the two women fight over the man who is cheating on both of them but instead of holding him accountable they turn on one another. From the perspective of the other woman, ‘Gabrielle’ shows how that woman to woman contest is alive in the song as she constantly puts herself down and raise her up. It speaks to our insecurities as women and adds the fault of the human condition to the album, effectively humanising it with the fact that we can’t be strong bad-asses all the time, we’re not robots. With the pressure of social media and comparing ourselves to one another still getting to us it’s obvious that this is what we need to work on more so than anything else, we cannot be turning on each other at a time like this, but instead we should be raising each other up.
Ultimately, the album is musically so powerful, and punchy that it injects the listener with all the strength and fearlessness they need to do what they want to do, be who they want to be and live how they want to live. ‘Written and Directed’ Is exactly what people need to hear right now, we are finally in a world of the Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter, as well as the small victories and triumphs of girls everywhere finally leaving their toxic boyfriends and the fact we are officially POST-TRUMP shows we are making progress. And this album only empowers us further to reach new heights and continue to make a change.
Written & Directed is out tomorrow. Buy it here.
Read our previous Volume One cover feature with Izzy here.