Review: The Horrors – Skying

——–Written on July 28 2011 for Faux Magazine——–

It’s a terrible music cliché, but a band radically changing their sound is one hell of a risk, not only does it potentially alienate a fan base, but it can also disrupt band harmony and record label backing. The Horrors have now done it twice, and with undeniable success.

Lead single Still Life from new album Skying was shuffled onto Youtube with nothing more than a note saying the album it’s taken from, and the date of its release. No press fanfare, no Sea Within a Sea countdown style promo, just a band saying “Well, I guess you should listen to this.”

In front of a video which looks it’s been created by Bez (there has since been an actual music video produced) a backward instrumental kicks us off into whole new Horrors territory, a territory that includes more synth and eighties pop references than you can shake a colourful stick at. Front man Faris Badwan shows off his incredible grasp of control he now has over his voice, a million miles away from the screaming chaos he delivered on debut album Strange House. “The moment that you want is coming if you give it time” can only be a reference to certain highs available in this world.

Opening track Changing the Rain kicks off with driving bass and a whirlwind of fantastical synth before moving surprisingly into a baggy sound, was anyone really expecting that?

However, to pin point and generalise Skying into one genre would be doing it a great injustice, because it flitters so easily between electronic tranquillity and over-driven franticity. Take Endless Blue for example, it starts with a slow loping bass line and trumpets before cascading into something that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album.

A pattern emerges quite quickly, with a massive emphasis put on Tom’s encompassing synth and Rhys’ languid bass. Fusing together perfectly, they provide the ultimate wall of noise for Faris to impose his baritone voice upon.

As with Primary Colours there isn’t a weak track on Skying, although the seemingly endless (but in a good way) journey that Moving Further Away manages to take you on is the album’s pièce de résistance, transforming effortlessly from eighties electro to shoegaze, with a helping hand of some noisy seagulls.

The album ends with Oceans Burning, far and away the most beautifully crafted song the band have mustered in six years. “It’s a joy to know you’re waiting there” highlighting Faris’ newly found sentimentality and thirst for romance.

Once a wild cannon onstage, Faris has been described as boring recently, but sod that, he is an example of ‘less is more’, his sauntering of stages resulting in more stage presence than he was ever capable of whilst hanging from speakers and goading the audience. Again, it’s another musical cliché, but he and the rest of the band have simply grown up.

There’s been one hell of a transformation since Strange House, you only have to look at the band’s recent promo photos to see that. Where there was once a group strictly restricted to black and tight attire, there is now colour, and that mirrors their music. From dark and dangerous beginnings, The Horrors have discovered a vibrancy that, despite the plethora of obvious influences, makes them one of the most unique and important British bands right now.
Better than Primary Colours? It’s probably more inconsistent, but considering the musical risk they’ve applied to Skying that’s not really a surprise. The next chapter in this band’s intriguing history is crucial, as there will now be huge pressure for them to once again ‘evolve’ their sound. If anyone is capable of pulling it off though, it’s The Horrors.

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