The Horrors – Skying
After their first album failed to live up to all that ‘most exciting new band’ hype, The Horrors kind of dropped off the radar as everyone looked elsewhere for trendy, big-haired, skinny jeaned rockers to provide the next new exciting sound. The ironic thing is, if everyone had stuck around they would have found exactly what they were looking for in The Horrors’ captivating and enthralling second album Primary Colours. Unfortunately, by then it was destined to be an album that largely went unnoticed – save for the die-hard fans and ‘told-you-so’ music buffs.
So, what do you do after releasing such a magnificent, critically lauded album that didn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserved? Well, if you’re The Horrors, you carry on regardless of petty statistics like album sales, safe in the knowledge that the quality of work will eventually get the recognition it deserves. The fact the band produced Skying themselves shows that they are not your average careerist rock band intent on following trends and conquering the iTunes charts – they are much more interested in exploring their own influences and creating classic, age-less rock music. Inevitably, this leads them down a few self-indulgent tangents, but on the whole Skying confirms The Horrors as one of our most important and interesting bands.
The Horrors’ dedication to their wide influences is obvious straight from the off as album opener ‘Changing The Rain’ grows from hymnal, latter day UNKLE to bass heavy, synth-led early 90’s baggy. ‘You Said’ has front-man Faris Badwan doing his best Ian McCulloch impression while early album highlight ‘I Can See Through You’ sees him letting his inner Jim Kerr out to play.
While it may be fun to play spot the influences with Skying, you risk missing the point of The
Horror’s commitment to exploring and developing their various musical inspirations – which is not just to repackage old musical styles for a new audience but to bring it back to life with new purpose and energy.
‘Dive In’, for example, takes all the best pre-Britpop shoegazy bits from early-Charlatans and pumps them full of enough charisma to make it all seem ‘relevant’ again. The stand-out moment on Skying, though, comes in the form of the first single ‘Still Life’, with its slow, steady and composed synth intro hinting at a band in complete control. As it builds into a euphoric anthem you get the feeling that not only have The Horror’s nailed their influences, they’ve managed to totally outdo them.
It’s a feeling that carries on into the album’s true heart and centrepiece ‘Moving Further Away’, which grabs all the available melody and beauty out of the stifling paranoia and introspection of Krautrock and delivers an eight-minute long electro wig out the likes of Can would never have thought possible.
As mentioned before though, the problem with a band producing themselves playing about with their influences is that, amongst the genius moments, there will be a few self-indulgent wrong turns. The weird ‘chill out’ trumpeted intro to ‘Endless Blue’ sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise lushly produced and almost transcendent record – ruining what would be a fine scuzzy rock song in the process. ‘Monica’s Gems’ is the biggest offender though, simply because it sounds far too much like Suede for any normal persons liking. Luckily ‘Oceans Burning’ rescues the day at the end – a quick coda of gentle, captivating beauty which wouldn’t seem out of place on one of Bowie’s greatest hits albums.
While the jury is still out on whether Skying trumps The Horror’s achievement with Primary Colours – it’s safe to say their third album at the very least confirms their position as one of the most enthralling and vital bands around.