‘Strange House’ wasn’t so, really. A collection of broadly worn influences, The Horrors’ 2007 debut rocketed along with no little gusto but, ultimately, was a weaker relation when compared to forerunners with something more sincere to say.
That’s not meant to suggest The Horrors’ first album was bad. It categorically was not, and with hindsight accusations of style over substance simply don’t stick. Sure, the band looked good – they still do – but they weren’t chucking out hollow imitations of garage-rock glories past. Informed by, sure, but ripped off? Nah, not quite. There was always something mischievous rattling away in the background, something just in the periphery of the band’s material that was threatening to make itself heard.
And that something was a spark of otherworldliness, the true embracing of the alien and the shackling of it to textures and tones tried and tested. And with ‘Primary Colours’ it seems The Horrors have clicked their intentions firmly into gear.
Released on May 4 via XL, the band’s second LP is brought to its end-product climax with production assistance from both Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and Chris Cunningham. The creative melting pot is a truly unique one, and its results bear the mark of collaborative harmony.
Take the one song from this album currently in the public realm, ‘Sea Within A Sea’ – you can hear it on MySpace. Compare and contrast to the likes of ‘She Is The New Thing’ and ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’, both calling card cuts of yesteryear (i.e. ’96). The development is amazing, the progression so advanced you’re left wondering if this is the same band you’re hearing. Tell me you can’t hear the Barrow influence. It is just gorgeous.
The song’s one of the most striking to hit the Clash stereo so far this year, and such is its impact that certain staffers have rabidly pronounced ‘Primary Colours’ to be a potential album of the year; its final three-or-so minutes alone warrant no little celebration. Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves, but the reaction’s an uncommon one in critical circles where cynicism always precedes praise. The Horrors’ reformatting of their chosen art has clearly produced a trump card – and it’s just one of ten songs that make up this fantastic long-player. And what’s more, it’s the record’s final chapter, the epilogue that makes no sense of everything preceding it.
Which begins with a beauteous wash of shimmering Eno-like drone, the opener of ‘Mirror’s Image’ passing up the chance to come out guns blazing for a slow reveal wich immediately engrosses. A steady bassline, a wavering keyboard motif, and then guitars wail like My Bloody Valentine duelling Cocteau Twins for the title of Most Influential Shoegazers Ever: suffice to say it’s as out of the blue as out of the blue can be without being, well, out of the red (?). Vocalist Faris Badwan finds himself battling a torrent of tumultuous instrumentation, the kind that swells in a manner so organic-sounding, so heavy of breath, that you wonder how it was crafted by electric amplifiers and however many pedals. Surely this sound is one made by beast, not machine; its source sleeps in a cave, never resting in a cardboard box.
And to say much more would be to give the game away – we are still some way off a review proper, as many more listens are required to get the most out of this densely layered record. The upfront swagger of ‘Do You Remember’, the ethereal overtones of ‘Scarlet Fields’, the aggressive jangling of ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ – these tracks and more require further exploration to properly sell their charms to those undoubtedly, even after reading the above, still certain that ‘Primary Colours’ isn’t half the record its loudest champions make it out to be.
No? Your loss, as this is one album that seems, at this juncture, to be wholly worth all the hype that’s attracted to its unexpected brilliance. Honestly, this is so good it’s going on again right after this article gets uploaded…
The tracklisting for ‘Primary Colours’ looks like this…
‘Who Can Say’
‘Do You Remember’
‘New Ice Age’
‘I Only Think Of You’
‘I Can’t Control Myself’
‘Sea Within A Sea’
Pick up the new issue of Clash magazine, out April 2, for an exclusive fashion shoot with The Horrors. Find the band on MySpace HERE and see them live as follows…
25 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
26 Newcastle University Basement
28 Aberdeen Moshulu
29 Glasgow King Tut’s
1 Manchester Ruby Lounge
2 Birmingham Academy 2
3 Bristol Thekla
4 Brighton Concorde 2
5 London Electric Ballroom