Be Calm Honcho is SoCal cool with its first full length, Honcho Dreams. The quartet hails from the Bay Area, the San Fernando Valley, and Lafayette, L.A.—a fact that vocalist Shannon Harney, drummer Mikey Carrera, and multi-instrumentalists Jacob Landry and Alex Weston seem to be very proud of. The Crossbill Records release is a hodge-podge of beach rock, indie-pop, and rock ’n’ roll that dabbles in psychedelia. Such a mix can hail positive results, but in this case makes for an incohesive record.
“Step Out” is a crisp, clever opener and a call to action. Harney sings, “Take your dress off/It’s your goddamn house/Make a mess of it all.” Her vocal quality is immediately striking—ranging from soft and coy to Alanis Morissette at her angriest.
“Each Day” has a blues-rock flavor with a steady, prominent bass guitar groove. The blues comes out in its somewhat dreary lyrics: “Get your fill while you can ’cause there’s no takeaway/And when you’re called to the stands what will you say?/You were fighting the good fight this time/This game.” This track is also a call, but it’s the other side of the coin.
Instead of minimalist and light like “Step Out,” “Each Day” is rough around the edges, a breath of fresh air in an album full of easy, breezy, borderline-pop songs.
Other tracks explore mediocrity through many different lenses. “Mean Pack” attempts to be poetry set to music, but Be Calm Honcho forgot that it’s not Bjork or Beck. “Brimming” floats along, carried by a wind made of long tones from horns and a web of instrumentation, but it’s a bit underwhelming. For all its layers and trappings, it could be infinitely more engrossing.
Meanwhile, “What We Have Made” cuts to the chase. Harney calls, “I like you more than everybody without a doubt,” and, “All I want to do is touch your body, baby, and sleep all afternoon in each other’s light.” Frankness is often commendable, but in this case, it’s distractingly on-the-nose.
One of the most successful songs, “Jacob’s Revenge” dishes out punchy surf rock juxtaposed with breakdowns borrowed from the Alabama Shakes. This and closing track “I Love CA” are high points in a record that falters in a few spots. Be Calm Honcho didn’t go the obvious route with “I Love CA,” staying as far away from the Beach Boys’ characteristic sound as possible. The track features a chorus and a spoken-word story section throughout. Harney, accompanied by the gang, croons, “I love California like you do/I fall for it harder in the full moon/Meet me by the creek/I’ll be there all day/Wading in waist deep/Beneath the meteor display.” For once, the foursome’s layers and experimentation come together in all the right places.
Honcho Dreams’ mash-up of genre, style, and attitude makes the record a pleasant, sometimes perplexing journey, much like a dream itself. This West Coast quartet can crank out some gems (“Each Day”), but could stand to avoid certain traps. Be Calm Honcho, we get it. You really like being from California.
Note: Be Calm Honcho has since re-released Honcho Dreams with a new approach on several tracks, a changed-up tracklist, and a few other tweaks, resulting in a more cohesive record. The re-vamped version will be released June 24.
Be Calm Honcho - Honcho Dreams tracklist:
- “Step Out”
- “Mean Pack”
- “Pretty On The West Coast”
- “Sea of Xs”
- “Go Outside”
- “Be Brave”
- “Always My Fault”
- “Each Day”
- “What We Have Made”
- “Jacob’s Revenge”
- “I Love CA”