|Wolf Tone/Caroline International||22 September 2017|
The Horrors — V (22 September 2017) ζ→ British garage punk revivalists who transformed into moody rockers with critical acclaim for their merger of goth, post~punk, and shoegaze.
Location: Southend~on~Sea, Essex ~ London, England
Styles: Indie Rock, Shoegaze, Alternative/Indie Rock
Album release: 22 September 2017
Recording Location: The Church Studios, London
Record Label: Wolf Tone/Caroline International
01 Hologram 6:05
02 Press Enter To Exit 5:55
03 Machine 5:17
04 Ghost 5:38
05 Point Of No Reply 5:00
06 Weighed Down 6:32
07 Gathering 5:17
08 World Below 3:20
09 It’s A Good Life 4:53
10 Something To Remember Me By 6:40
→ Faris Badwan — vocals
→ Joshua Third — guitars
→ Tom Furse — keyboards, synthesizers, drum programming
→ Rhys Webb — bass, synthesizers, guitars
→ Joe Spurgeon — drums, drum programming, synthesizers
→ Harry Edwards — cello
→ Paul Epworth — production
→ Mandy Parnell — mastering
→ Matt Wiggins — engineering, mixing
→ Big Active — design
→ Faris Badwan — design
→ Erik Ferguson — digital imaging
→ Riley Macintyre — assistance
→ Luke Pickering — assistance
Alexis Petridis / Thursday 21 September 2017 12.00 BST; Score: *****
The Horrors: V review — spindly indie survivors hit their sweet spot.
ζ→ Against the odds, the Horrors’ fifth album is their best yet, with Faris Badwan’s commanding, world~weary vocals adding to the synthesised thrills and sparkling guitar~pop.
ζ→ 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. The pages of the Observer play host to a feature that wonders aloud how Bloc Party will cope with being propelled to superstardom as a result of their new album: “A zeitgeist~defining record that rips up the rock rulebook.”
ζ→ Strange days indeed, but imagine the consternation you could cause were you able to offer everyone a glimpse into the future, a world 10 years hence where Razorlight are headlining not Reading and Leeds but a VW campervan convention in Llangollen; where the lead singer of the Kaiser Chiefs is now best~known as a judge on a talent show, and where the frontman of the Arctic Monkeys has left Yorkshire, changed his accent and now favours the world not with gritty vignettes of provincial Britain, but updates from the frontline of life as a swashbuckling multi~millionaire cocksman, rampant amid the sun~bronzed lovelies of Hollywood.
ζ→ Perhaps the biggest shock you might deliver is the news that the Horrors are still going. Few new bands in 2007 seemed less likely to last: an amusing but wafer~thin confection of goth clothes, funny pseudonyms and chaotic garage rock, haplessly buffeted by a very knowing kind of music press hype. When they appeared on the NME’s cover, its editor offered the caveat “they look awful and sound terrible”, as if to underline that the quintet were not made of the same vital stuff as the Automatic or the Enemy. And yet, here we are, a decade on, considering their fifth album.
ζ→ Perhaps the fact that no one really expected them to do anything more than ignominiously split when the hype died down gave them a certain freedom. Certainly, they have proved capable of constantly shifting and mutating in a way most of their contemporaries haven’t.
ζ→ It’s a process that continues on V, an album that sees them teaming up with Paul Epworth: once the go~to producer for post~punkish alt rockers, but latterly more likely to be found working with Adele and U2. Inveterate record collectors with great taste and, increasingly, the ability to twist their influences to their own ends, the Horrors have sounded great since their second album, 2009’s psychedelic, krautrock~infused Primary Colours. But Epworth appears to have tightened up their songwriting until literally every track has a melody powerful enough to sing out over the thrilling noise the band make, from opener Hologram’s stew of Tubeway Army electronics, howling Robert Fripp guitar and churning, fizzing TB~303 acid lines, to the closing Something to Remember Me By, seven minutes of chattering, synthesised melancholy that may be the best thing the Horrors have ever done.
ζ→ In this task, Epworth is aided by vocalist Faris Badwan, whose transformation as a singer is possibly the most striking change to have taken place in the Horrors’ sound. A man whose vocal technique once involved hurling himself in the general direction of the tune and keeping his fingers crossed, here he sounds not just in key, but commanding. There’s a world~weary, experience~bitterly~won quality to his voice that deepens the songs, subtly shifting their temperature. World Below might have the most sparkling pop melody here: while an avalanche of ecstatic guitar noise pulls it in one direction emotionally, Badwan’s voice takes it in another, adding an affecting wistfulness. Amid the gauzy textures of Weighed Down, meanwhile, his refrain of “Don’t let love bring you down” hits a perfect emotional sweet spot, the kind of melancholy euphoria that induces stadium crowds to get their lighters out or switch on their smartphone flashlights.
ζ→ The latter point highlights the strangest thing about V. The Horrors’ last two albums briefly reached the Top 10, but they remained resolutely a cult concern. V, on the other hand, sounds, potentially at least, like a huge mainstream hit. It performs the not inconsiderable feat of sounding commercial without losing any of the Horrors’ essence or individuality. You might reasonably counter that the kind of British alt~rock that currently sells sticks close to a landfill indie blueprint, with none of the invention and imagination on display here. Equally, there’s something really powerful and undeniable about V’s songs that suggests it could provide the most unlikely twist in an unlikely story: the Horrors actually becoming as big as the overheated hype announced they would a decade ago. Whether that happens or not, it’s a triumph.
BY PAUL CARR, 21 September 2017; Score: 8
ζ→ THE HORRORS GET THEIR MOJO BACK WITH SONGS TO MATCH THE SWAGGER.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares; Score: ****
|Wolf Tone/Caroline International||22 September 2017|