Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

Grrrl Gang – Honey, Baby

Tastes like honey, sounds like…?


Jeffrey Brister: Bit of 80’s jangle, bit of Dum Dum Girls, bit of Best Coast, all coasting by pleasantly. More than a little nondescript, but a well-executed bit of guitar rock in 2021 never fails to make me pay attention to who’s making it.

Leah Isobel: “You make me feel like a chiiiild,” Angee Sentana sings over jangly guitars and sunny harmonies. In the context of the lyrics, it reads like a lovestruck confession, but she delivers it with a slight smirk that implies something more sarcastic. Once that tension enters the song, you hear it everywhere — in the choruses that land somewhere between fawning and backhanded, in the deadpan vocal sighs that open the song, in the stormy guitar breaks that cut in between the verses, and in the bridge’s unresolved question “Do you still feel the same?” But then the song hits a key change for one last chorus before rocketing into a windswept outro, powered by Sentana’s final line: “I would hate to see you go.” Grrrl Gang’s storytelling is graceful and natural; of course, it helps that the hooks are so sticky.

Nortey Dowuona: A fuzzy, sizzling blanket of a song. Lovin’ this.

Andrew Karpan: In their first new single after signing to a hip London label, it’s nice to see this charmingly intense band from Yogyakarta shed twee angst for shredding angst, carefully moving their RIYL-reference point away from Belle & Sebastian and Beach Bunny and closer to, say, Hop Along. It’s a good move, as it comes with a particularly solid guitar solo, which evokes, at times, either a frustrated bee hive or, maybe, something more 90s (possibly the Breeders?).

Vikram Joseph: Jangly indie-pop might not exactly be cool in 2021, but there are plenty of bands still ploughing that furrow (there’s basically a whole festival dedicated to it), and it’s a difficult field to set yourself apart in. In recent times, Alvvays notably succeeded in doing so with a blown-out sound and a witty, deeply empathetic skewering of millennial angst; “Honey Baby” is like an Alvvays song engineered in a lab, almost the real thing but with an uncanny valley vibe that it can’t quite escape, despite a slightly desperate late key change. It’s pretty likeable nonetheless, and the guitar riff and the closing instrumental section are decent invocations of 90s indie rock miscellany, but in the end this reminds me most of Yuck, a band that sounded like all their heroes at once without ever quite finding an identity to call their own. Plenty of time for Grrrl Gang to do so, though.

Samson Savill de Jong: I sometimes feel like I compare one band to another too readily, it’s a bit of a music writer crutch for when you’ve not got anything actually insightful to say. Anyway, Grrrl Gang reminds me a lot of Pale Waves, especially when they start making honey based comparisons in the chorus. It’s not an entirely fair comparison — they obviously aren’t trying to get the goth aesthetic going, and musically there’s a bit more experimentation in here, especially towards the end of the song — but I do mean it as a compliment. They pull of the delicate pop balance of sounding upbeat without sounding twee, and having a hint of sadness without sounding pretentious or like an insufferable teenager.

Oliver Maier: As good as any new jangle pop you’re likely to hear; smart, simple, a little staid. Imagine “There She Goes” if it felt a bit listless, like it wasn’t written about a real person. The wah-wah guitar fills in enough colour to compensate.

Alfred Soto: What are those things? Right — guitars. Crunchy and chewy on a vaguely nutritious song that doesn’t know what to do with them except as aural tags.

Taylor Alatorre: The playing starts off sounding overly restrained, the pacing too cautious, as if they don’t want to jeopardize their goal of planting as many ’90s band names as possible into some dorky American blogger’s head. But the switch suddenly flips when they get to the line “everything that he isn’t,” which, though a minor cliché on its own, provides a diegetic reason for all that restraint. It’s not just about a new relationship, but one formed in the wreckage of a just-ended one, which casts a faint shadow over even the shimmeriest of melodies here. If nothing else, the turbulent outro makes clear that Grrrl Gang have ambitions beyond serving as an indie pop museum piece.

Katherine St Asaph: What “Honey Baby” lacks in energy — and it does, at least until the last minute — it makes up with nostalgic wholesomeness. It sounds like all the Vitamin D you didn’t get last year, delivered slow-release to not overwhelm.

Aaron Bergstrom: Thirty years ago, the nascent genre of alternative rock reached a fork in the road. While the history books have designated 1991 as The Year That Grunge Broke, it wasn’t as obvious at the time. Nevermind actually placed third in Spin‘s Album of the Year rankings, behind Teenage Fanclub’s Bandwagonesque and REM’s Out Of Time, and it’s not hard to imagine an alternate timeline where jangly, power pop-inflected college rock became the ascendent sub-genre. Instead, we got decades of watered down sludge-rock, and now songs like “Honey, Baby” hit like recovered memories from a past that never happened: an update on Mazzy Star that refuses to fade into anything, a swirl of bright guitars and group harmonies balancing lyrics about sorrow and madness, and a key change that sounds like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. The dream of the 90s is alive in Yogyakarta.

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3 Responses to “Grrrl Gang – Honey, Baby”

  1. Ha, well obviously Taylor is the big winner here because this song planted a ridiculous amount of 90s band names into my dorky blogger head!

  2. thought it sounded like the Catherine Wheel’s Judy Staring at the Sun (as played by Best Coast). and absolutely nothing wrong with that.

  3. holy shit that’s exactly what it sounds like