Independent rock and roll act Dirty Honey released this past April, what is one of 2021’s most welcome and best new pure guitar rock albums in its self-titled album. The eight-song record has been the subject of a lot of hype since 2019, and it can be said that the album lives up to that hype and then some. That is evidenced clearly through the 28-minute album’s musical arrangements and lyrical themes, all of which are fully accessible. One of the songs featured in the album that serves to support the noted statements comes halfway through its nearly half-hour run time in the form of ‘Hold My Hand.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Another Last Time,’ which closes out the album, is another example of how its musical and lyrical content comes together to make the album so engaging and entertaining. It will be discussed a little later. ‘The Wire,’ one of the album’s early entries, is yet another example of the importance of the album’s collective content. It will also be discussed later. All three songs examined here are important in their own way to the success of Dirty Honey’s self-titled debut album. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes Dirty Honey a work that every guitar rock purist will enjoy.
Dirty Honey’s self-titled debut album is a strong start for the up-and-coming neo-classic rock quartet. The album’s success comes collectively through its musical arrangements and lyrical themes. One of the songs that most notably exemplifies the noted statements comes halfway through the album in the form of ‘Take My Hand.’ The musical arrangement in this song is the polar opposite of that in the album’s lead single, ‘California Dreamin’’. Not to get too far off topic, but ‘California Dreamin’ is not to be confused with the song made popular by The Mamas and the Papas way back in 1965. rather, this song is its own, original composition. Getting back on the matter at hand, the musical arrangement featured in ‘Take My Hand’ immediately lends itself to comparison to works from the likes of Small Town Titans and Audioslave. The Audioslave comparison should come as no surprise considering that Dirty Honey worked with producer Nick DiDia on this album. DiDia worked with Tom Morello and his band mates in Rage Against the Machine (whose members eventually formed Audioslave after a split with front man Zach De La Rocha in 2000). Clearly DiDia’s own creative influence came into play here, considering that history. The guitar arrangement, the drums and bass all immediately mirror works from Audioslave. Front man Marc LaBelle’s vocal fiery vocal delivery style and sound is itself even comparable to that of the late, great Chris Cornell here, making the Audioslave comparison even clearer. For all that the song’s musical arrangement does to make it stand out, it is just a portion of what makes the song (and album) work. The lyrical content that accompanies the song’s musical content also plays into that success.
The lyrical content featured in ‘Take My Hand’ stands out because of the discussion that it will generate. It would seem that, in listening closely, the song’s lyrical content presents a message about letting go of the past and just moving forward in life. This is inferred in the song’s lead verse, in which Labelle sings, “No time to change/The mistakes you made/And if I carry the weight/It’s the price I have to pay/But I wanted all your love/And I needed all your love…take my hand/You’ll understand/I’m just a sinner, too/There’s no way out/We’re headed south/I’m lonely just like you.” This alone would seem to hint at someone telling another person that he/she knows about the other person’s past but that said person needs to just leave the past in the past because things in the present are what they are and that other person is not alone in his/her situation. The seeming message continues in the song’s second verse, with LaBelle singing, “Hide in the light/Stories that you told/Paying no mind/To your wicked ways of old/When I wanted all your love/And I needed all your love/It drove me out of my mind/Take my hand/You might understand/I’m just a sinner, too/There’s no way out/We’re headed south/Don’t play me for a fool.” Again, here is that seeming message of just letting go of the past, not letting it weigh one down mentally and emotionally. LaBelle does not just come out and make clear if the overall lyrical theme has anything to do with perhaps a couple in a relationship or if this is just a general statement made from one person to another. Regardless, the seeming message is relatively clear. When it is paired with the song’s infectious musical arrangement, the whole makes the song a clear example of what makes the album’s musical and lyrical content so important to the album’s overall presentation. ‘Another Last Time,’ which closes out the album, is another example of what makes Dirty Honey a successful presentation.
‘Another Last Time’ presents a musical arrangement that will itself find quite the interesting comparison. The song’s opening bars lend themselves to comparison to Pearl Jam’s hit 1992 b-side, ‘Yellow Ledbetter.’ That comparison is brief, but is there. From there, listeners will notice a sound and stylistic approach that is more akin to works from the Black Crowes, what with the combined use of the keyboard, choral type backing vocals, guitar, and drums. It is a work that will appeal to any southern rock fan. The tone in the song’s arrangement, that sense of melancholy, does well to help illustrate the familiar story featured in the song’s lyrical content. The story in question comes across as being that familiar tale of the breakup of a romantic relationship, with the “last time” being metaphorical language for the one last go-round.
The breakup story is made even more as LaBelle’s subject adds in the song’s chorus, “Tell me what it takes/’Til you find your way back to me/And we’ll say/One last time/Another last time/Another go round and we say goodbye.” That the song’s subject compares the woman in question to whiskey and rain, stating, “Lord knows when I’ll see her face again” in the song’s lead verse adds even more to the clear story. He even notes that the woman has “Got me wondering/Why I’m holding on to this,” making even clearer, the noted statement. This is a mournful, melancholy song about a relationship’s end, thus the lyrical and musical content. The thing is that it is more of an introspective and retrospective look at that relationship. This is something to which many listeners will relate, proving its accessibility. When it is paired with the song’s equally accessible southern rock stylistic approach and sound, the whole continues to prove the role of the musical and lyrical content featured in Dirty Honey’s self-titled debut album. It is just one more example of that importance, too. ‘The Wire,’ which comes early in the album’s body, is one more example of what makes the album’s collective content so important to its success.
‘The Wire’ presents a musical arrangement that is one of the most unique of the album’s compositions. The song’s arrangement immediately exhibits influences from the likes of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and even the aforementioned Black Crowes. Even with so many distinctly different influences presented here, the band still manages to craft a song that is unique and that boasts its own identity. The energy exuded by the song’s musical arrangement is important to examine because it helps to translate the message presented through the song’s lyrical content.
The message presented in ‘The Wire’ is that of a man who knows he needs to get away from a woman who is not good for him, but he can’t help but keep going back to her. That is evidenced as LaBelle sings, “This wasn’t part of the plan/I never wanted to see you again/I’m a fool for you/And those things that you do/Can’t get this picture of you out of my head…I’ve been walking the wire/And I’ve been walking your wire for too long…turn and walk away.” This is just the song’s lead verse, but it makes relatively clear the noted inference. The song’s second verse continues the statement as LaBelle sings, “Thought it would get better with time/But your kisses, baby/They still blow my mind/I’m a fool for you/And those things that you do/The way that you love me is such a crime.” That last statement about the mistreatment in the relationship is the most telling. Again, this is someone who knows he is in a bad situation, but can’t bring himself to just walk away. He keeps getting drawn back into the toxic situation because “your kisses, baby/They still blow my mind.” While the song is sung from the vantage point of a man, women could relate just as much. That is because they get into the same situations. To that end, the song’s lyrical theme proves its accessibility even more. The energy exhibited through the song’s musical arrangement does well to help illustrate the subject’s mixed mindset. Together, the two elements join to make this song another standout addition to Dirty Honey, showing once more why the record’s musical and lyrical content collectively makes it such a successful offering. When this song and the other examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s songs, the whole leaves no question about the engagement and entertainment that the record offers. All things considered, it leaves no doubt that the album is one of this year’s top new independent and rock albums.
Dirty Honey’s self-titled debut album is a strong first offering from the up-and-coming rock band. It succeeds as much as it does because of its combined musical and lyrical content. The record’s musical arrangements exhibit influences of some of the most talented and respected bands past and present throughout. Even with those influences noted, the arrangements still boast their own unique, engaging, and enjoyable identities. They are fully accessible and enjoyable compositions from one to the next. The lyrical themes featured in the album’s featured songs are just as engaging and accessible as their musical counterparts. All three of the songs examined here more than support the noted statements. When they are considered alongside the rest of the songs featured in this record, the whole makes Dirty Honey a standout addition to this year’s field of new rock and independent albums. Dirty Honey is available now through Dirt Records.
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