wears the trousers magazine

shannon wright: honeybee girls (2009)
September 17, 2009, 9:05 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,


Shannon Wright
Honeybee Girls ••••
Vicious Circle

Shannon Wright has never been one to court recognition over her ten-year solo career. Her shows in the UK are few and far between, her lyrics often impenetrably personal and her guitar-playing, while captivating, can be harsh and challenging. Yet 2008’s Let In The Light was a self-referentially optimistic antidote to a slew of delightfully miserablist albums. And so it seems that the bad blood surrounding her disbanding of indie-pop band Crowsdell never really left her wanting to escape her past, as latest album Honeybee Girls samples a little of everything from it.

The album’s opening track ‘Tall Countryside’ is a dreamily autumnal piece; the guitar picking is lulling and gentle, the slow drumbeat a soothing accompaniment to an introspective piano track. It’s a great ode to Let In The Light’s showcase of Wright’s sizeable talent for sweet melodies and unusual composition. Dizzying, then, is the introduction of following track ‘Trumpets On New Year’s Eve’, a jangly, queasy hootenanny of a song. With the more aggressive, staccato guitar, the listener is thrust into territory not trod since Crowsdell’s brand of off-kilter pop. Wright’s voice here – as is true of the whole album – has the same earnest magic as always; she warbles and croons each word to perfection, and her lyrics, while not quite retaining the density evidenced in earlier works are still murky and private. “I stand in the crowd / with my silver-tin crown,” she sings, playfully referencing her early single ‘Tin Crown For The Social Bash’, reminding listeners that she’s still the same troubled outsider. It’s a fantastically nostalgic trip, but is perhaps a little too familiar.

This is the main problem with Honeybee Girls. While Wright gleefully reworks ideas from her own back catalogue, not all of the tracks offer any real evolution. This is especially apparent on tracks such as ‘Black Rain’ – a plodding, forgettable song where a finger-picked piece loops endlessly over uninspired strings and a heavily distorted guitar that has been used by Wright often in the past. It isn’t a terrible piece, but it leaves no lasting impression. A similar problem befalls ‘Sympathy On Challen Avenue’. A placid track complete with buoyant piano that evokes 1999’s Flightsafety, it is placed clumsily between two of the album’s most foreboding songs and feels like an intrusion on the palpable dread and melodrama of the preceding ‘Father’ (a fantastically worked ensemble of Wright’s voice echoed over pacy, sombre music).

However, this revisiting of the past isn’t always misguided. Especially not on tracks like ‘Never Arrived’ and ‘Embers In Your Eyes’, two brilliant songs so obviously influenced by the darkling fantasy that was 2000’s Maps Of Tacit, that were they not so competent and worthy of that album’s oeuvre it would be embarrassing. Closing the album is a cover of The Smiths’ ‘Asleep’, previously recorded as a B-side to her 2001 single ‘A Junior Hymn’. Here, Wright once again reworks the song so shrewdly that it really sits well on the album. It’s melancholy and soothing all at once, and evokes such sadness that the mood settles long after the song has finished. With great tracks such as this, songs that evoke feelings and memories of Wright’s past works, it is a shame that Honeybee Girls is blighted with those few that seem like lazy, tame revisions in comparison.

Terry Mulcahy
UK release date: 21/09/09; www.myspace.com/shannonwrightdefythislove


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