9 April 2009


>>>The Horrors>>>Primary Colours>>>
Last time I heard anything from The Horrors, I was standing front row at an Arctic Monkeys gig in Manchester. The Horrors were supporting and not doing a very good job of it. When you've got a crowd with a large percentage of chavvy dickheads, sending out a goth-punk band is not a good idea. There was a cacophony of boos and barrage of various things thrown at them (quite a few McDonalds toys, which was a bit surreal to say the least). It wasn't exactly the most pleasant place to be. I'll make it clear that I hated The Horrors. To me, they were pretentious, arty-farty pretend goths peddling below average garage-punk. Even their best song ("Count In Fives") was a rip-off of something else. But a year and a bit down the line from the overly hostile support slot, The Horrors have bounced back with something totally unexpected, different and, above all, brilliant.

"Primary Colours" is an album that wears its influences on its sleeve (which is presumably black). Elements of The Jesus And Mary Chain, Joy Division, Kraftwerk, Neu! and even the Stone Roses can be found somewhere here. Not hiding this fact away allows The Horrors to create something new and exciting whilst building on the work of their influences. The ambient intro to "Mirror's Edge" is a world away from anything on their debut, fading into a Stone Rose-aping bassline and a tornado of distortion courtesy of guitarist Joshua Third. "Three Decades" continues in the same shoegazing vein, with the swirl of guitars and eerie synths sounding like a demented fairground ride. "Who Can Say" incorporates a chugging guitar riff with a fantastic ghostly synth line, and provides one of the best moments of the album with it's spoken word middle-eighth ("And when I told her I didn't love her anymore, she cried/And when I told her, her kisses were not like before, she cried/And when I told her another girl had caught my eye, she cried/And then I kissed her with a kiss that could only mean goodbye...") and the drumbeat to "Be My Baby" (a staple of any shoegaze record).

Upto this point, one of the most surprising thing about this record is that it has more catchy hooks in one song than in the entirety of The Horrors' debut. Stripped of the wall of distortion, ethereal synths and Faris Badwan's mumbled delivery, most of these tracks could probably be jangly indie-pop hits in the right hands. But, of course, they work best with The Horrors, otherwise I wouldn't be raving about them right now. "New Ice Age" is possibly the closest thing here to the debut, but even then it would stand out by a mile if slotted in on "Strange House". Another surprising element of "Primary Colours" is the similarity to Joy Division. JD are one of the more vogue names to drop in terms of influences at the minute (just look at Editors, Interpol, White Lies etc) but The Horrors' take on Manc melancholia is a world away from the clean, sanitised, "sat-nav" vision of despair currently being touted in the charts/NME. The fuzzy guitar riffs, basslines and synths all, at some point, resemble Joy Division, as well as Faris' proper singing voice being a carbon copy of Ian Curtis' baritone. Hell, even "I Only Think Of You" sounds like a modern equivalent to "Atmosphere".

Anyway, away from comparisons, the final three tracks are three of the most interesting on "Primary Colours". "I Can't Control Myself" is a mix of their past sound with their current, making it one of the most accessible on the album whilst the title track is pure demented pop with an actual catchy chorus for probably the first time here. I've already mentioned the ambitious comeback single and album closer "Sea Within A Sea" in a previous post. Eight minutes long with no discernible chorus and 3 minutes and 6 seconds of that being purely instrumental music, this is the bravest thing they could have done and the most pleasantly surprising for a band written off as the ultimate "hair and trousers" band. For having the courage to reinvent themselves and then pulling off an album such as this with aplomb, they deserve all the plaudits they can get. The only hope now is that the brilliance continues.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Mirror's Image", "Who Can Say", "Do You Remember", "New Ice Age", "I Only Think Of You", "Primary Colours", "Sea Within A Sea"
FOR FANS OF: Joy Division, The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, The Sonics


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