Remember The Horrors? Of course you do. Those ridiculously pseudonymed Russell Brand-a-likes in sperm-killingly tight jeans aren’t easily forgotten. There was a time, though, when it looked like that distinctive image was just about all they would be remembered for; because following their largely disappointing 2007 debut Strange House, The Horrors appeared to be a band that were all style and little substance. They came across as the kind of sceney sceney indie boys that would have headlined one of Nathan Barley’s club nights, or a band that had blown their entire budget on hair and makeup.
But what a difference two years make. 2009’s Primary Colours (QRO review) was not only further removed from their first effort than anybody could possibly have imaged; it was also a bloody great record – so good, in fact, that it earned them a Mercury Prize nomination. Gone away was the goth-tinged garage rock; here to stay was their new shoe gazing, psychedelic-inspired maturity.
Unsurprisingly Skying carries much of what was good about that album into this third record; but this time the band are more obviously under the influence of Echo & The Bunnymen (QRO live review), Joy Division and The Psychedelic Furs (QRO live review): and it’s hard not to hear Joy Division’s “Isolation” in the opening strains of “Changing the Rain”, or that the excellent “I Can See Through You” is something of a “Pretty In Pink” for the 21st century.
But whilst for much of the record The Horrors sound every inch the excellent ‘80s electro band they never promised to be, there are other influences too. The baggy drum beats (just about the only thing baggy about The Horrors) used during “Dive In” and “Still Life” recall the Stone Roses, albeit a darker version (perhaps more accurately The Un-Happy Mondays – QRO photos – with Ian Curtis on maracas in place of Bez), whilst the Monica in “Monica Gems” must be Sally Cinnamon’s wilder, more intoxicated sister.
Of course, there’s much more to Skying than playing spot-the-influences. They’re there, that much is clear: but this sound is distinctly ‘new’ Horrors. There are a few missteps – “Endless Blue” seems incongruously guitar-heavy, whilst most of the album lacks the anthemistic immediacy of “I Can See Through You”, “Dive In”, and “Still Life”. There’s a lot going on here too, so repeated plays are a must. But the trebly synths, faded guttural vocals and layering of sounds at play work, for the most part, fantastically well, and album number three proves to be another step forward.
All of which brings us to the title. Skying isn’t much of an adjective; but it could pretty accurately sum up the bands’ career trajectory until now. “I remember when The Horrors were a little bit shit. Then they were flying. Now they’re positively skying.”
Don’t worry. Already contacted the OED.
MP3 Stream: “I Can See Through You”