In many ways, there’s nothing new about what Glaswegian shoegaze pop duo Honeyblood do. Combining sweet hooks with a sour demeanor, and adding a healthy dollop of ’90s alt-radio rock to the mix, their self-titled debut feels both familiar and likable. They’re only a duo, but thanks to the cavernous drum work of Shona McVicar and Stina Tweeddale’s crisp vocals and commanding guitar, they sound much bigger. Evoking everyone from solo Jenny Lewis to Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, Honeyblood brims with well-worn touchstones, but the band manages to blend them so seamlessly, the results feel fresh.
Honeyblood’s songs are lousy with deadbeat boyfriends (“Why won’t you just grow up?” goes the chorus on “All Dragged Up”), boring towns (“(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here”) and broken hearts. And yet there’s something triumphant and self-affirming about the music, lush and catchy and, at times, just plain exuberant. From the power-pop single “Killer Bangs” to the vampiric “Choker”‘s addictive hook, these songs’ capacity for inciting shout-alongs make them feel freer than their dejected and pissed off subject matter might suggest. Flirtations with dusty California pop (a lá Best Coast on “Bud”) and ’60s girl groups (“Fortune Cookie”) might seem like filler in comparison to bloodletting rave-ups like “All Dragged Up,” but they have such a lovely shimmer to them that they don’t feel dispensable. At times deceptively plucky, Honeyblood is a record whose charm lies in its wounded humor. “I will hate you forever,” sings Tweeddale gleefully on “Super Rat.” “Scumbag sleaze! Slimeball grease! You really do disgust me!” It’s infectious enough to get a roomful of said sleazy scumbags and jilted lovers enthusiastically singing along.