Golden Glory by Honey Wars is a fantastic amalgamation of power pop, psychedelia and Americana. The songwriting is smart, the performances strong and the production has lots of sonic prizes to listen for.
The album starts with a fade-in of acoustic guitar before the rest of the band drops in for the song “Unbottled.” The lead vocals have a Wayne Coyne like feel in phrasing and tone which fit in well against the Americana backdrop of the band. The chorus is catchy and fun and the song concludes with a psychedelic keyboard solo featuring some eastern modes. “Doug’s Philosophy" is propelled by brushed drums and has some nice steel guitar and harmonica swells that ebb and flow around the melody. There’s an oboe solo that comes out of nowhere, but the incongruence works as it is EQed almost like a fiddle solo. There are a series of Dylan/Byrds like couplets that tie the end of the song up in a neat bow.
The band excels on this vibe on songs like “Idle Hands” that neatly moves between nimble tambourine and a breakdown, “Bumblebee” an excellent un-ironic country song with a catchy melody and smart lyric, and “We Try, We Fail” which has some Sting inflections in the vocals and message. The title track has a late Beatles/George Harrison feel in the drone of the organ and the EQ on the vocals, and an excellent harmonized guitar solo.
The band also shines when they combine disparate ideas together. “Baby, Baby” moves through several feels/ideas seamlessly in the same song. The chime-y guitars over the shaker give the song a ‘60s ballad feel before a mariachi trumpet solo fills in, and then the song moves into more of a country feel before synth strings eighth-note piano pounding swirls the song around into more psychedelic territory. In lesser hands, this wouldn’t work, but Honey Wars is very clever in tying all of these ideas together and justifying each entrance and transition, leading the listener through the song without letting them know that anything has changed abruptly.
“Same Way” is a dreamy song with swimming electric guitars and trippy drums in 6/8 time that builds into a fuzzed out psychedelic chorus before moving into a 4/4 section that rocks out. It’s an eight-minute journey, but each minute feels earned. “The Ransom” is another acoustic ballad that introduces and takes away additional instruments and voices throughout. It’s a slow build and it works. The only anomaly to this concept is “Sweet Summer Morning” which tries to move between several feels and ideas but the transitions feel forced. There’s a nice Tom Petty-ish inflection in the chorus, but ultimately the song feels more like an exercise than a finished thought.
A few of the other songs don’t quite make it across the finish line. “Hey Man” leans more towards early Wilco/late Uncle Tupelo alt country and although the harmonized guitar solo is a smart instrumental break, there are some exciting drum fills and even a vibraslap, the song meanders and never quite finds its way. “Julianne” is an acoustic ballad with some interesting guitar work but some inconsistent time in the percussion. The melody is pleasant, but lyrically, the song feels a bit long with the point being made earlier in the song.
“Still, Oh, How Time Flies” is pure jangly power pop as if the Beatles had been American when they made Rubber Soul or Help and ends with a hilarious but poignant duet of harmonica and a school bell. This kind of sums up the feel of the band and the album, they’re lots of fun to listen to. There is obviously lots of talent to speak of and they are able to tie many ideas and feels together into a fluid journey.
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