New Release: The Horrors

The Horrors: Primary Colours

XL (2009)

the-horrors-primary-coloursI’ve been hesitant to post about this album for a while now, because I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I love it. I don’t really know why I’m ashamed of this. I guess their image lends to hipsterisms that I don’t really identify with, and a culture of angsty youth that I’m too old for. Chris Cunningham’s film clip for Sheena was a Parasite was fucking cool, but The Horrors’ debut Strange House was an unimaginative beacon of style over substance.

However, earlier this year The Horrors surprised everyone by dropping the creepy, 8 minute Krautrock single Sea within a Sea. Now the release of sophomore album Primary Colours suggests the band might be smarter than anyone originally gave them credit for.

The Goth schtick has been sucked into a black hole of 1950s sci-fi, all laser beam keyboards and space-warped guitars. It’s true that Primary Colours wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, but who cares when they’re toying with fantastic sounds from The Cure circa Pornography, early Siouxsie and the Banshees, and My Bloody Valentine?

Portishead’s Geoff Barrow puts his production skills to expert use here, giving every instrument a hollow, shoegazing wash that sounds like The Horrors are calling out from another dimension. Kids who were hooked on the debut, will quickly sink their teeth into the raucous tracks like New Ice Age (the album’s low point) and I Can’t Control Myself.  The rest of us will find restrained moments like Scarlet Fields and the creepy pulse of Sea Within a Sea more compelling.

Perhaps the most shocking turnaround here is singer Faris Badwin’s voice. The crazed shriek has been toned down to a shaky Nick Cave croon, that’s still unhinged enough to keep you wondering when he’s going tear off his skin and shake out a demon. His new persona is instantly more menacing than his earlier antagonism, and in conjunction with his matured lyrics he comes across more believable in his role as a carnivorous carnival spruiker.

It’s probably stupid that Primary Colours has become my secret shame. Yes, you have every right to call its sound derivative, but if you’re willing to give into its charms Primary Colours pays clever and respectful homage to the past. How much of this can be attributed to Geoff Barrow’s production work we’re yet to see, but for now The Horrors have proved to have a longevity that most other over-hyped bands never reach.

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