Written & Directed is a film lovers dream. From pulpy references to surf rock nostalgia, it hits every note with full force through its strong and powerful women's gaze and heavy grunge guitars.
Black Honey have always proved themselves as a band that loves a good reference, yet it’s the Brighton-based rockers’ latest album that truly delves into their adoration of all things pop culture, pulp fiction and California dreamin’. Written & Directed takes on the form of an exploration of all things cool, whilst pushing frontwoman Izzy B. Phillips own brilliant agenda of feminism and invincible women.
Kicking the album off with my personal favourite, Written & Directed lays its goals on a plate for us to feast on. ‘I Like the Way You Die’ is the dream song for any film lover. Not only does it play upon its nowhere near subtle reference to Quentin Tarantino’s action-packed narrative Western Django Unchained by directly quoting Jamie Foxx’s power-play perfection ‘I like the way you die, boy’, it also gives the grungy, chain-clanking trauma of Django’s opening sequence. The track employs the grungy, hard rock vibe Black Honey should’ve delved into long ago, and is welcomed with open arms. After listening to the track you want to firstly, go away and watch Django Unchained again, but secondly replay the track until you release that you’ve probably heard it a few too many times (basically this is what I did after listening).
It was always going to be hard to follow the albums opening track, yet ‘Run For Cover’ manages to keep up the vibes of ‘I Like the Way You Die’, playing on darker tones and heavier sounds. The song feels reminiscent of many bands, with Nirvana and Nothing But Thieves inspired bass notes that could seriously make a room explode. ‘Run For Cover’ is exactly the kind of track you want on an album; a track perfect for a live show, which we might even manage to catch this year! When the beat drops you can feel your stomach sink. If that isn’t effective musicianship, then I don’t know what is.
‘Beaches’ catches the perfection of the surf rock genre, blending it suitably but surprisingly with the trumpet instrumentals that layer Izzy’s sharp vocals. The style of the albums follows this track, linking back to the film inspired narrative you can imagine the musical-esque beach scene that plays out in front of you as the film protagonists drive down the highway in their fast car with the roof down. After the fast-pace of ‘Beaches’, ‘Back of the Bar’ is a much-appreciated break from the hard rock of the last three tracks. Whilst we all love some heavy guitar riffs, there’s nothing more special than a melodic acoustic-based track that shows both variety and the incredible voice of the lead vocalist. Phillips employs her relaxing soft tones, describing a scene in a way that only a film could truly display.
Lead track ‘Believer’, which was released earlier this year, already created that sense of anticipation before an album is released, so hearing the track in context brought the retro tones to a whole new level. The track is both catchy and chill, with a groove to it that sets the narrative of a California summer where the sun is blazing down on the relaxing crowds below. ‘Believer’ takes you back to Black Honey’s debut self-titled album (2018), as it forms the same atmosphere as the stunning track ‘Cadillac’ with layers of smoothness that melt as you listen. You’re drawn into the song, like you would be drawn into the mood of a warm and sunny day, drifting away and enjoying every second of it. ‘Summer ’92’ and ‘Fire’ hold the softness of the weather, yet don’t quite grip you like the surf rock vibes from previous tracks. It’s a shame because the lyricism is there, yet the tracks don’t hold the musical value of the others which stun.
‘I Do It Myself’ throws you into the pop culture world of James Bond and drama films, playing on the popular sounds and tropes of the genre. We already knew Black Honey could nail this sound, and really their 2019 track ‘I Don’t Ever Wanna Love’ should have been the title track for the upcoming bond hit No Time To Die, so the smoothness of ‘I Do It Myself’ draws you into the tension of the track and the smoothness of the constructed reality. The track even quotes the infamous Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver (1973) through the impactful quote “I’m a walking contradiction”. ‘Disinfect’ brings back the heaviness of the album, re-reminding us of Black Honey’s musical talent and the grungy potential of Phillips’ voice.
The final track ‘Gabrielle’ is a stunner. Not only does it finish off the album with a collective, emotive piece of music, but it also focuses on the female as the lead protagonist. She is the author of her own story, writing her own narrative to be the way she wants it with no one letting her change it but herself. Phillips uses the story to tell the strength of women and the perspective others have on powerful women. The line “bitches think I’m crazy” is something I never thought would work in a song but oh boy, was I wrong. There couldn’t be a better way to finish off the album. Written & Directed was written and directed by a woman who has nailed the cinematic landscape in musical form. Izzy B. Phillips – I salute you.
Written & Directed is due to be released March 19th via Foxfive Records. Check out the official video for ‘I Like The Way You Die’ below.