On their new album Backlash, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears reclaim their original moniker and return to their much-celebrated take on classic soul and punked-up R&B. As Lewis explains, the band's fourth full-length confronts the ugly reality of "dealing with the backlash from the things you've done in the past," delivering a host of songs rooted in regret but steeped in a defiant spirit. Bombastic but nuanced, Backlash ultimately unfolds as an album both joyfully chaotic and intensely cathartic.
Recorded at Big Orange studios in the band's hometown of Austin, TX, Backlash finds Black Joe Lewis joining forces with Grammy Award-winning producer Stuart Sikes (The White Stripes, Cat Power, Modest Mouse) and revisiting his most deep-seated influences. "I wanted to go for more of a soul/blues/rock-and-roll sound compared to the last one – the kind of stuff I was doing back in the day, but with the songwriting a little more evolved," Lewis says. The band's most stylistically adventurous work so far, Backlash expands their sound by bringing gritty guitar tones and Stax-styled horn sections to intricate, danceable arrangements inspired by the likes of Nile Rodgers.
Kaleidoscopic in mood and unrestrained in emotion, Backlash channels its restless energy into tracks like the infinitely catchy and groove-drenched "Sexual Tension," the fed-up and fired-up "PTP," and the fantastically unhinged "Freakin' Out." On "Lips of a Loser," meanwhile, Black Joe Lewis lays down a beautifully devastating breakup ballad powered by sprawling guitar lines and cinematic swells of strings. "‘Lips of a Loser' is my Isaac Hayes impersonation," notes Lewis of his smoldering vocal performance on the album's stunning centerpiece.
Elsewhere on Backlash, Black Joe Lewis addresses unrest on a broader scale: "Global" infuses howling vocals and heavy guitar riffs into a rowdy meditation on environmental destruction, while the chant-driven "Nature's Natural" emerges as the album's most striking and mournful moment. "That one's about black-on-black crime, and also about police killing black dudes all the time," says Lewis of the latter, pointing out that the song was written in the aftermath of Ferguson.