The Horrors burst onto the rock scene in 2006 with their simple and direct debut single Sheena Is A Parasite. Their game-changing second album Primary Colours earned them some more street cred, and their third and latest album Skying, self-produced and recorded by the band in their own studio, is their much-anticipated follow-up.
Cleaning up the fuzz and sharpening the blurred edges of Primary Colours, much of Skying radiates with a bold, kaleidoscopic aesthetic that only carries an undertone of the Horrors’ noir-pop roots for some contrast and texture. The album begins with some altitude on the woozy, light-headed synth-rock of the leadoff number ‘Changing the Rain’, opening to soaring keyboards that give singer Faris Badwan just enough space to come to the fore with his affected, ‘80s-ish vocals. And that’s just a launching pad for the dramatics of ‘You Said’, which rises to the top with bubbling keyboards and choppy guitar effects forging a throbbing mass of melodic noise that’s dense and shimmering at the same time. It goes to show that the Horrors have figured out that thrills and chills don’t necessarily have to go hand-in-hand with gloom and doom
What best measures the Horrors’ artistic growth here is the way they’re able to shape their atmospheric and expansive sonic palette into catchy pop chestnuts. The single ‘Still Life’ recalls the Psychedelic Furs stretched out and spaced out without ever coming off dated or overly derivative, while the glistening ‘Dive In‘ moves at a brisk pace that takes the framework of a three-minute pop song and extends it into an engaging five-minute epic. The ingenious ‘Monica Gems’ finds the sweet spot between the slicing reverb of Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine and Suede at its swaggering, top-of-the-pops best, somehow shoegazing and strutting simultaneously. Even more impressive and audacious is ‘Endlessl Blue‘, lulling the listener to ease with ambient swathes of noise punctuated by a touch of horns on its false-start intro, before busting out into some guitar-heavy Brit-rock. At their best, the Horrors have a knack for being able to follow its muse all over the map aesthetically, while still pulling it all together to produce a single, recognizable profile
Admittedly there are elements to the Horrors that might seem too affected and too much of an acquired taste. In particular, the bombastic ‘I Can See Through You’ is a hooky slab of 80s shamelessness that’s toeing the line between retro fun and cheesy schlock. At the other extreme, the Horrors can get a little too shapeless with their experimental side: ‘Wild Eyed’ reverts to some of the shapeless shadowy noise of Primary Colours, while ‘Moving Further Away’ might have moved too far away from the Horrors’ successful new formula, with probably a few minutes too many of noodling that spreads the band’s rich sound too thin
All in all, Skying is the work of a band that’s living up to the hype, just after the fact. Their predominantly art-school detachment and style over content has replaced with an emotional drive and vigour. There’s passion and heart here. This is what makes it such a standout piece of music – not only have they found the perfect balance between their pop ways and experimental leanings but they’ve added a fervent and impassioned delivery that goes beyond mere posturing. This is what makes music such an addictive experience – seeing and hearing a band continue to develop and work at their music, never resting on their laurels
And considering the trajectory that Skying shows they’re on, maybe the Horrors won’t just ultimately match the expectations of them, but maybe just exceed them
Buy it here
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