[22 February 2004]
Who the hell is Honeyrider? Yes, I’m sure there are people out there in the know. Lots of hipster listeners (or maybe just a few) holding this thing up over their friends’ heads like it was a cool toy. Well, Dionysus thinks it’s a cool toy, as here we have yet another old album being reissued for the masses with a bunch of live tracks tacked on at the end… and yes, another updated cover shot so whomever are fans of the group will know they’re not getting snookered into buying the same product all over again. Lucky them.
Honeyrider is a group originally from San Diego and they (at least on this album) dabble in a surf rock sound reminiscent of early Beach Boys. I wish I could drool all over myself about this album like every other review I spied about it, but to be honest listening to the 12 original tracks here in one sitting was just too taxing to keep my interest. There were moments on the album where I thought things were going to pick up, but it never happened. All the sounds washed together in a generic melodic surf rock homogenization.
And if you go back and listen to those first couple of Beach Boys albums, you’ll find the same thing happening. Cool harmonies, a good riff here and there, but nothing that demands you sit there for an entire album. Especially when the Boys were dumping goofball joke tracks left and right on their early LPs. Honeyrider doesn’t hand that kind of junk out, but they do stick themselves into a niche that really wasn’t that expansive in the first place.
Granted, sometimes these songs sound like the Byrds dropped in for a time, but then that makes the band sound like nothing more than a weaker clone of Teenage Fanclub’s more recent stuff. Then there’s the other sort of songs on here that other folks liked to label as “Jesus and Mary Chain inspired”. I suppose there are hints of that lurking about the likes of “Superstar Love Machine”, but the cheap Byrds/Fanclub thing is what creeps out most of the time.
Honestly, I despise albums like this that are all surface thrills. The melodies and hooks are so borrowed and calculated that there’s no reason to get excited about music like this for long. And songs with titles like “Drugstore Shoot-Out”, “Galaxy Girl”, and “Radio Heatwave” should have something cool behind them. But they don’t. I had to listen to this album a lot, in fact, just because I completely forgot all about the songs as soon as they were over.
The live tracks smashed on the end of the album expose Honeyrider as the weak group it actually is. Stripped of studio productions, these guys are capable but hardly as fantastic as others might say. But then, if you have a decent set of ears, you’ll be able to hear right through the gimmicks on the studio tracks, anyway. I’m still wondering why this album was even reissued, and the only thing I can come up with is that it was originally pressed as a limited edition release, and there was enough buzz between 1997 when it was first issued and now to have some label pick it up and dust it off again. But All Systems Go! didn’t deserve the treatment or the attention. It’s a decent stab at some ‘60s-sounding surf psych but hardly the stuff of legend. Might be good for those with short attention spans, but I’d wager even they would be ready to turn this one off halfway through.