Release Date: Sep 22, 2017
Record label: Caroline
Let us briefly take a detour down memory lane. It is 2007 and, as a contestant on the most recent series of Big Brother has so eloquently put it, “there’s a new music that’s taking over our country and it’s called … ‘indie’”. The Pigeon Detectives bestride the Top 20. The second Razorlight album has just been certified five times platinum.
Flipping this approach, The Horrors - who have flirted with it throughout their career - have now gone full on electronics and synth on this fifth record. It's not a total 'Horrors go Depeche' reinvention, but by putting the guitar (still evident, but used more sparingly than previous albums) to one side for synthesizers and heavy dub bass excursions, they.
Ten years on from their debut album, it’s still very clear what drives The Horrors. “For us to be excited and motivated it has to be challenging to our ears and be fun to create,” said frontman Faris Badwan in an interview ahead of the release of the band’s fifth album, appropriately titled V. This desire for their music to be “challenging” has always been evident as the five-piece’s sound has evolved over time.Whether it’s the dark garage punk of Strange House, the shoegaze rock of Primary Colours, the more polished and euphoric Skying or the psychedelic dream pop of 2014‘s Luminous, The Horrors have never been afraid to push their sound to new and interesting places.
There are roughly three groups of people that are aware of The Horrors. First is the cult following that have been devoted to the charismatic group from its Ramones-esque beginnings. Second are the middle ground fans who peg their knowledge and liking of the group mainly around its critically acclaimed third album, Skying. Third is semi-skeptical crowd who thought The Horrors were gimmicky to begin with but have grown with the group as it has matured and become more realized.
So far, The Horrors’ oeuvre has, like a sonic magpie, collected up noir post-punk, shoegaze and Simple Mind-ed retro. Their fifth studio album – that V’s presumably a Roman numeral – travels through multifarious styles of the electro 80s and beyond, and begins by picking up some Numan nature. With its phalanx of Tubeway Army synths, “Are we vision?” refrain and even Faris’ intonation, Hologram’s hook-plated past-futurism could have come from the great Gary’s songbook. Elsewhere, dirty Depeche riffs, Bowie choruses and David Sylvian meditations can be found, but you can forgive such filching as it’s all worked into the house of Horrors with complexity and artful experimentalism..
When the industrial grind of ‘Machine’ announced The Horrors’ return in June, it was with an obvious statement of intent. Far removed from the layered production and shoegazey throb of last LP ‘Luminous’, this was the London quintet returning more direct, punchy and immediate than they’ve been in years..
After 2014’s slightly aimless Luminous, the Horrors’ fifth album finds them recapturing the focus of their earlier triumphs. The expansive melange of psychedelia and krautrock, embellished with synths and electronic flourishes, which they established on Primary Colours, is still the lingua franca, but there’s a greater consistency to the songwriting this time around. Indeed, from an icily detached Faris Badwan channelling his inner Gary Numan on slowly grinding opener Hologram through to the euphoric Moroder-influenced disco wig-out Something to Remember Me By that closes proceedings 54 minutes later, there isn’t a weak link.
It’s tempting to read the title of The Horrors’ fifth album as a symbol of its sleek, solid contents, but frontman Faris Badwan also wants you to read the ‘V’ as “a f***-you, in a British, two-fingers way.” He adds: “We thought it was funny.” But ‘V’ will raise more eyebrows than smiles. Over the past 10 years, the Southend-formed quintet have engorged their doomy garage-rock with psychedelia, shoegaze and electro, and they seem to be toasting their recent support slot with Depeche Mode with this 10-song, hour-long strut through dry ice and – somewhat improbably – towards the arena. .
It feels like a critical point in time for English psychedelic electro-rockers the Horrors. While by no means a commercial failure (it reached number six on the UK charts) 2014’s Luminous album was met by a collective critical shrug upon its release. Whether this was because there was less of a stylistic shift in sound as there had been from the post-millennial, dreamy shoegaze of second album Primary Colours to the more synth-heavy, ‘80s post-punk influenced Skying, there was a nagging sense of an opportunity missed.
After three years of golden slumber and suave side-projects, canny five-man pop collective The Horrors awaken in their communal club-house, rub the kohl out of their eyes and ask themselves that burning question: what next? Their answer is a lusty, decisive .
Looking back on a decade of releases, the Horrors have mostly endured their name, rather than embodying it. A knowing nod to their favorite schlocky 1960s bands.
Edging further away from their shoegazinggoth-rock roots with each new release, The Horrors resolutely target the alt.pop mainstream on their fifth album. Produced by Paul Epworth, the multiple Grammy-winner who has worked with Adele, Muse, U2, Coldplay and dozens more, V combines expansive arena-rock sonics with a heavy dose of lush electronics. Indeed, the stern synths and metal-bashing percussion of Hologram sound like vintage Tubeway Army, while the robo-riffing thunder of Machine falls between Suede and the Sisters Of Mercy.
After the release of debut LP ‘Strange House’, The Horrors underwent a significant transformation. Gone were the days of the gothic punk fashionista aesthetic, in came the krautrock and shoegaze infused melting pot ‘Primary Colours’. And with every subsequent release, The Horrors have found themselves chasing varying paths and sonic departures.