When the Horrors first appeared on the scene, with their 2007 album ‘Strange House’, their future didn’t seem all that bright: lots of hype, faintly silly looks and not that many memorable tunes. They had a great sound and played some energetic gigs, but eventually were dropped by their label.
When they returned with the ‘Sea Within a Sea’ single, and follow up album ‘Primary Colours’, they were an altogether different band. Toned down the silly goth look, and had a bigger, richer sound. What’s more – they had some cracking tunes, too. ‘Primary Colours’ was rightly regarded as one of 2009’s best albums.
One criticism often heard, was that ‘Primary Colours’ wasn’t all that original – it was just a copy of the My Bloody Valentine sound, just shoegaze revivalism. Was it such a big deal? Probably not…after all, they had great songs, it was a pretty good sound, and there was no new My Bloody Valentine album out there, anyway!
The Horrors new album, ‘Skying’, shows the band moving on to a different sound, but, as it happens, it’s still someone else’s! First single ‘Still Life’ is great, but sounds exactly like Simple Minds. Instead of early 90’s shoegaze, The Horrors decided to go back a few years and do 80’s flavoured music, with evident debt to bands such as Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs.
Ok, so The Horrors are still not that original. But this time it may be more of a big deal. With ‘Primary Colours’ it wasn’t, because the sound was so good, the songs were so good. With ‘Skying’ this lack of originality matters, because the songs are not as memorable, and I felt slightly bored by the time i got to song number five. It feels like they paid more attention to the production, than to songwriting.
After the critical success of ‘Primary Colours’, there were great expectations for The Horrors, expectations that ‘Skying’ doesn’t fulfill. It’s a good album, but it’s not great. It’s not a classic. It’s a “7 out of 10” album, it’s a “three stars out of five” album. It’s just good, and, probably, just not good enough!
This album has the potential to alienate some of their fanbase while failing to make that many new converts. It probably won’t turn them into bigger stars. Which is a shame, considering that having a good guitar band in the charts would be great, for a change!
Unfortunately, it just feels like The Horrors will never truly be a “great” band. There doesn’t seem to be enough passion and personality in what they do. They’re too savvy, they’re almost like musicologists, making studious reproductions of the sounds and bands they love.
Let’s hope this will change. The Horrors are certainly a good band, and their future could still be bright. As for ‘Skying’: well, it’s certainly worth a listen. ‘Still Life’ is its best song, and one of this year’s most memorable singles.
Watch ‘Still Life’: