Horrors new album ‘Skying’: a review
This has been a short and strange path.
Band arrives via the front cover of the NME. They look great- hair exploding everywhere- polka dot- garage band- Goths with ninety second long songs that matched their look. A perfect band.
They pissed a lot of people off but were fantastic. Their gigs were packed with skinny, cute youth in skinny fit polka dots and frantic hair tease. It was a great rock n roll moment- if there is one thiong better than being the biggest band in the country it’s being the most hated band in the country. It was like the manic Street preachers all over again. A fiercely intelligent band takes on the plodding indie dinosaur with a kamikaze genius.
The sluggish indie scene, of course, recoiled in terror from the band. I saw them support the Artic Monkeys in Manchester and the lumpen indie masses were throwing everything they could at them.
It made me love the Horrors even more.
Their debut album, ”ËStrange House’ was a series of garage punk rushes and was greeted with muted bemusement by the indie scene. The band did have their champions in the press but there is nothing that strikes fear into the hearts of indie-land than sweaty garage rock played by skinny cool ghouls and the band seemed like a busted flush. Despite this they pulled off the rock n roll well- with a real sense of respect for the bands that had paved the way a couple of decades before and the record was a reverential and effectively exciting burst of attitude and ghostly adrenalin.
Then something happened.
They disappeared regrouped and came back with their second album, ‘Primary Colours’ and got respectable.
They were suddenly in the world of Mercury music awards, glowing reviews and indie respectability. It sounds really dull but they did it with a great album-”ËPrimary Colours’ is an atmospheric mash of krautrock and minor key darkness and nocturnal bedsit soundtracks and it was quite brilliant. The new phase saw lots of love for the band at the expense of their debut which still sounds great to me.
A year or so later and the next big question was how would they follow this. Would there be another style change? Where could they go? Another trip into the melodic end of the rush of the heart of darkness? What they have done is explored their new sound further and deeper- stretching the possibilities whilst somehow making it more commercial without losing any of their art. It also does some nifty grave robbing of its own to fast forward into the future.
There are touches of the early Cure in there, some moments of that indie dance mash up when it was good and trippy and trancey i.e when Andy Weatherall mixed the likes of My Bloody Valentine and, quite crucially, a large dollop of Psychedelic Furs in frontman Faris’s’ rasping vocals. It’s hard to tell whether this is intentional or just what happens when you attempt to pull off that Bowie timbre with a naturally rasping voice.
People are already talking about this album in reverential whispers, already installing it as one of the albums of the year and it’s hard to disagree with them. Darkly original, it takes an old template of left field underground experimentation and moves it forward.
The leading single ”ËStill Life’ pretty well sets the tone- some people say ”ËSimple Minds’ but that will put you off the scent. It’s a brooding hypnotic track that pulses with minor key moodiness and is sonorously anthemic.
Overall, though, there is less moodiness on the album than before and a lot more focus- it’s the closest they have dared to go making a pop record yet. Without loosing their dark velvet hearts the band are toying with the mainstream and winning.
There is some astonishing guitar work, weird sheens and moody sounds that layer up the atmospheres like the way My Bloody Valentine used to when they could actually get into the studio and finish off a project. The Valentines are interesting parallel- they too started of with garage rock Birthday Party style rushes before zooming into a trance rock state with tripped out anthems and critical respectability. The horrors seem to be following the same path.
There has been a bit of delving into the Goth box with hints of long lost band, Curve, whose dark hearted Goth pop was once a really big fuss on the scene before fashion came and spoiled everything, There are even hints of Killing Joke at there less feral and more melancholic.
Perhaps the Horrors give us a chance to reclaim the Goth word. It’s become boring for it to be used as some sort of sneering put down of a band that walks on the dark side. The Goth scene was full of some of the most creative bands of its period and if history has been rewritten to claim the post punk bands were the champions of the after punk confusion then it’s criminal that the likes of Killing Joke, Bauhaus and early Cure etc have been removed from the narrative.
More and more young bands are looking at these darker groups for inspiration and that includes the Horrors.
The cunning ”ËStill Life’ maybe the first single but its not event he best track on the album- there are loads of stand out cuts like ”ËYou Said’ or ”ËEndless Blue’ all pulling you into their world with clever arrangements and subtle shape shifting ebb and flow builds which have seen the band nearly work with Mr Portishead himself Geoff Barrow in what would have inspired choice of producer.
Barrow’s sense of size and knowledge of soundscapes have really helped the band expand their horizons before they he recommended them working on the record themselves which they duly did and the cinematic feel of the album is quite mesmerizing.
The nine minute ”ËMoving Further Away’ really builds with all the instruments sliding into the mix- it’s hypnotic.
The band are moving quickly and now find themselves as one of the key young bands in the country with their dark pop a perfect soundtrack for the times.
It really is that good.