There’s something to appreciate about bands looking to take a genre like pop-rock in new directions, especially when said genre has become positively drenched with chancers and copycats running off the absolute bare minimum. It was one of the bigger selling points for Waterparks early on, and despite constant, hammering overexposure and the fact that Entertainment hasn’t fared the best even less than a year after release, they’re still a band who’ve undoubtedly laid down the groundwork for a fusion of pop-rock and electro-pop to be viable. It feels as though that particular move has opened all kinds of doors for a band like Crooked Teeth; in just the last few months they’ve signed to Rude Records and brought in cosigns from Stand Atlantic’s Bonnie Fraser, with the ample leverage from their platform that’s set them up to do much bigger things going forward.

From another viewpoint though, the wheels being set in motion that quickly could easily be indicative of a label scrambling to capitalise on a sound that’s primed to break genre expectations very soon, and rather than taking into account how well a band can actually realise a vision that’s not as easy as it seems, they’ve instead latched onto the band with the most buzz behind them in the hopes of that paying off. None of that is to say that Crooked Teeth don’t know what they’re doing, but compared to what this sound could and should be, Honey feels desperately fragmented, lining up the necessary pieces with little to no synthesis between them. Take a track like You And Me (Whatever) with its alternating passages of dark, bass-boosted electro-pop and guitar work with a bit more tangible sourness and crunch, both of which sound fine on their own but land with an audible clunk when placed next to each other. At least some of the over-production has been eased back for a surging, muscular guitar tone, but the binary between this and its synthetic counterpart is rarely hit with much elegance, and it can leave Crooked Teeth feeling woefully short on tricks.

Of course, this is something that could have a bit more light shone upon it in the writing, but even here, there’s not much to really glean in the way of versatility. To give them credit, Crooked Teeth are at least doing what they possibly can when entrenching themselves in the mould of post-breakup angst, but their limits are only highlighted by that overriding sense of sourness and Tyson Evans’ vocal performance that falls into awkward middle ground between dead-eyed ambivalence and snarling misanthropy. It’s rarely all that pleasant to listen to, and doubling down on painful, self-deprecating pessimism on Hate Me or mean-spirited dismissiveness on the title track and Absent doesn’t increase the attractiveness of such a prospect. Then again, that could be the whole point, with Crooked Teeth creating a clutch of tracks fuelled by immediate emotionality for a rawer experience, but even that doesn’t gel with how synthetic the execution is clearly trying to be.

Any possible hypothesis of how this EP could be salvaged or just be better than it actually is ends up being contradicted by something else within it, making it all the more frustrating to really dig into. It’s not as if Crooked Teeth are short on ideas either, but Honey doesn’t feel like the best culmination of them, ending up as frequently lumpy and awkward when some greater degree of tightness would prove exponentially more beneficial. It’s an easy fix, sure, but one that Crooked Teeth could’ve ensured was present for this release, instead of leaving it to be the messy prelude for something hopefully better.

5/10

For fans of: Waterparks, I Don’t Know How But They Found Me, As It Is
Words by Luke Nuttall

‘Honey’ by Crooked Teeth is out now on Rude Records.

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