The Horrors The HorrorsSkying
The Horrorssurfaced in 2007 with “Strange House”, a record that perfectly described the feelings of love and hate a band can generate in the public and the press. While many reviews were raving, the other half of the music press didn’t believe the umpteenth British hype. However, Faris Badwan’s band provided one of the biggest surprises of 2009 with their second album “Primary Colours”. There was more to those gawky lads than their outlandish looks. The record was produced by two greats, Geoff Barrow and Chris Cunningham. Such a good result (this time, the press was unanimously positive) created a dilemma when it came to making the follow-up: continue with the successful formula or take another turn? In the end, they opted for the latter and have produced “Skying” themselves, which possibly an implicit way to show those who still don’t believe that they’re not a prefab product and that they can perfectly well make a proper album by themselves.
“Still Life”, the advance track of “Skying”, was a new demonstration of reinvention. If anyone expected more post-punk darkness, they’re not going to find it on this third album. That first single is an elated eighties-like anthem, with the stadium epic of the Simple Minds, Gary Numan-style keyboards and echoes of Psychedelic Furs, already sensed on “Primary Colours”. The influence of the seminal Scottish new wave band can also be felt on “I Can See Through You”, when Faris Badwan seems to want to become Jim Kerr with those “La-la-la-la-la”s. Plus, it’s another instant hit. Because here, unlike on its predecessor, we have to take more time to appreciate it as it deserves. Which is strange, almost contradictory even, as this album is made in Technicolor instead of the usual black and white.
More uplifting new wave we find on “Moving Further Away” (Tom Cowan’s synths sound glorious), though this time seasoned with Neu!-like Kraut-rock close to “Sea Within A Sea”, not so much because of the style but because of the structure, duration and ambition they show on it. Immersed in the song, before you know it you find yourself in the eye of a colossal storm, where deafening guitars appear to twist your head even more. And, the same way Faris effortlessly changes his vocal registry (at times he sounds like Richard Butler as well), “Skying” takes unexpected sidesteps to the not so vindicated Madchester era ( “Changing The Rain”, “Dive In” and “You Said” have those baggy beats so typical for bands like The Charlatans and Jesus Jones). But unlike those late eighties and early nineties records by artists like EMF and Inspiral Carpets, The Horrors’ production is much more careful, clean and crystalline.
“Skying” doesn’t settle for second fiddle. The Horrors take ingredients from here, there and everywhere to make a very personal album, but where other modern-day bands place themselves in revivals that are already going on, these guys go their own way. They don’t mind that it’s hard to name Simple Minds as an influence or to refer to a golden but forgotten age in British music like Madchester. They have plenty resources (on “Endless Blue” they cross Stone Roses with Sonic Youth and on the minimalist “Wild Eyed” they experiment without losing the pop spontaneity when the trumpets enter the scene). Faris Badwan’s troupe hit the mark when it comes to changing the sound on each record, and this time nobody can say they had other people do the dirty work.
Álvaro García Montoliu