Now it’s Honeycrack’s turn:
When it comes to singles one hit wonders are often derided by music lovers and journalists, as if even having even one hit wasn’t hard enough. Paradoxically though most serious music fans will have at least one band in their collection that only released one album but still found a special place in the their heart. For many fans of the British rock scene in the nineties Honeycrack could well be that band. There is certainly something to be said for releasing one nigh-perfect album and then calling it quits. There’s no risk of having a creative slump and thus losing credibility, fans or critical acclaim for starters. Not that this ‘leave ’em wanting more’ ethos appeared to be part of Honeycrack’s original plan. Formed by ex-Wildheart CJ and Willie Dowling, who had provided keyboards on The Wildhearts’ debut album, they quickly established themselves as a serious contender for the Next Big Thing.
CJ must have thought all his dreams had come true, in Dowling he’d found a partner with the songwriting suss of Ginger but without the volatility. Honeycrack’s matching pinstriped jackets also projected a more clean cut, accessible image than his previous band. The music mined a similar pop-rock vein albeit aimed at the more commercial end of the spectrum and peppered with smart, witty lyrics. Alongside the breezy, catchy pop-rock songs like Samantha Pope showed they could handle serious subject matter with a humour and verve that was lacking in some of the more po-faced and earnest peers. They were quickly snapped up by Epic and released Prozaic, an album that bore favourable comparison with any of its contemporaneous realeases. For a debut album it did well, if not spectacularly, providing Honeycrack with two top 40 hits and an appearance on the popular music and light entertainment show TFI Friday.
But, it seems, it wasn’t enough. Despite demoing a wealth of material for a second album which hinted at being even stronger than their debut nothing was released by the label and Honeycrack fizzled out and went their separate ways. CJ went on to form the short lived, overly saccharine and appropriately named Jellys before returning to The Wildhearts fold where he remains to this day, dividing his time between playing gigs, recording solo albums and working on his ‘Devilspit’ hot sauce business. Willie Dowling formed a slew of high quality but low success bands and kept the cash coming in by writing music for television, most notably the theme tune for The Armstrong and Miller Show. He has now formed the eclectic Dowling Poole with ‘Random’ Jon Poole, another Wildheart collaborator.
So why didn’t Honeycrack become as big as their talent suggested? It’s the eternal mystery for the music fan and, I imagine, the artist themselves. Everyone has a band they hold close to their hearts that never quite had the success they deserved. And the Britrock scene seemed to produce more than its fair share. Lack of label support could be blamed, maybe a big push for the second album could’ve given them the breakthrough, but by this time bands were not afforded the time or the backing to build a career. The short-termism that defines the modern music scene – and indeed all culture now – was starting to set in. Or perhaps the record company were right and the audience just wasn’t there. There’s a case to be made that Honeycrack didn’t quite fit any demographic, too rock for pop fans, to pop for rock fans. Too smart for pop-punks, too witty for the ‘serious’ music fans. Or maybe they lacked a frontman that captured the public’s imagination, both CJ and Dowling perhaps being better suited to being supporting actors. Whatever the reason – and you can find examples within the scene at the time that support each theory and yet more that debunk them – at the end of the day a band can only be judged on the music they produced. And although their output was limited what Honeycrack left behind is pure gold.