Album: The Horrors, Skying (XL)
Sunday 10 July 2011
This is the one. You may remember, in 2009, the clamour of critics lauding The Horrors for – shock, er, horror – actually making a good album with their second effort, Primary Colours. I was practically a lone sceptic, sulking and tutting on my own in the corner.
I missed the band The Horrors used to be – the Edwardian clothes, the big gothic hair, the crazy garage rock songs, the screaming and stamping and shouting – and there was something depressingly predictable about the way that as soon as they got rid of the make-up and hairspray and started namechecking Krautrock, the door to Wire magazine and Sunday supplement respectability swung open wide.
But this, this is the one. Skying is an album which sees The Horrors take the Big Music of the Eighties, from the adored (Talk Talk, Blue Nile, Simple Minds before they went rubbish) to the maligned (Black, Then Jerico, Simple Minds after they went rubbish) and put it through a Nineties noisenik filter. When this sort of thing is done badly – the name “The Big Pink” springs to mind – the results are beyond appalling. But, as the lead track “Still Life” proved, The Horrors are – if you’ll pardon the cheap gag about their privileged upbringings — of an altogether higher class.
Skying begins with the looped distortion-pop of “Changing The Rain”, which sounds like My Bloody Valentine’s “Soon” covered by prime-time Psychedelic Furs and sets the template for an album which never once dips in quality. Numerous tracks are episodic in structure, like “Endless Blue”, whose intro is as placid as the first passage of The Boo Radleys’ “Lazarus”, before the nasty guitar rock song kicks in and it all switches from oceanic to linear. The eight-minute epic “Moving Further Away” starts off like Kraftwerk circa “Radioaktivity”, turns into a psych-rock juggernaut and moves into a Pink Floyd bliss-out interlude and back again without ever abandoning its original chord structure.
What’s most impressive of all are the textures. “Dive In” is made from sumptuous sugar-sculptures of nonspecific instruments. “Wild Eyed” has dream-dazed Spanish trumpets weaving in and out. The chrome sheen of “I Can See Through” reminds me of David Essex’s “Silver Dream Machine” (seriously). The closest thing to a regular rock song is “Monica Gems”, whose foot-on-the-wedge riffology is an oddity in context, but even that has a dizzy sway to it. They wrap up with “Oceans Burning”, another eightminute epic which billows out like Verve before they sprouted a “The”.
Oh, there are lyrics. Vaguely positivist platitudes like “The moment that you want is coming if you give it time”. They operate as word-shapes to hang the tune on. And my god, what tunes they are. This is an album that’s ostentatiously overloaded on melody, and on all-round sonic luxury. This is the one.
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