In 2005, The Horrors emerged from the shadows of some Tim Burton film wearing copious amounts of eye liner and jeans that were slightly too tight. The band bonded over their love for vinyl and early garage punk the latter being very clearly audible in the debut album Strange House.
For 2009’s Primary Colours, Geoff Barrow of Portishead was called in for producing duties and what ensued was the greatest shock of the year. With the help of XL Recordings and Geoff Barrow, The Horrors had been transformed from the music industries resident douche-bags to the band on everyone’s tongues when it came to album of the year. This album moved from 2 minute songs about murderers and into the blissed out tones of shoegaze; despite this change being a big one it was made seamlessly and seemed a natural progression.
Since the release of Primary Colours the band have been on a brief hiatus allowing them to follow whichever paths they wanted. Lead singer Faris Badwan was the busiest releasing an EP and LP with Rachel Zeffira under the moniker Cat’s Eyes scratching his 60s pop itch. He also released a few tracks with Cherish Faya under the name Lumina as well as having his own art exhibition of doodles in Shoreditch’s Book Club.
The band obviously love experimenting and the making of this record came when Geoff Barrow told them not to employ him and release the album themselves. They obediently obliged and set up shop in their homemade studio in a basement in East London, let the experimentation begin. With no one telling them what they can and cannot do, they began creating a wall of sound comprising vintage synths set beyond breaking point and anything else the quintet could get their black nail varnished fingers on.
Opener ‘Changing The Rain’ uses claps and bells to warn the listener of the change on the rest of the record, easing you in gently. ‘You Said’ sees the introduction of horns, yet more synth skullduggery and soaring vocals (as soaring as Faris gets). On ‘I Can See Through You’, Faris chants “I can see through you and there’s nowhere” and on ‘Endless Blue’ he coos “Everyone seems so far away” in his coldest tone both evoking images of a lost boy.
‘Still Life’ is the current single and is the closest thing to a pop song The Horrors have released to date. Progressing from the feeling of a lost direction, Faris optimistically sings “the moment that you want is coming if you give it time” over a dense mesh of horns and meandering synths all culminating in a great song. Despite the strength of ‘Still Life’ the show stealer is ‘Moving Further Away’ which is Skying’s ‘Sea Within A Sea’. Weighing in at over 8 minutes it is full of automated drum loops and wobbly, Krautrock synth loveliness with Faris repeating “Oh, I surrender, this is it” as the track floats off into the ether.
Skying is another step forward for the boys, you now also get more for money too as the songs are longer thus giving them ample time to develop and bloom. As an impatient fan I’m already yearning to see where they go from this but we need to appreciate Skying before they inevitably change their sound again.
The much asked question is whether Skying is better than Primary Colours but to that my only answer is “Who Can Say?”
Released on 11th July 2011 by XL Recordings