A GUEST POSTING by SWC
The Horrors very nearly blew it.
Some of it wasn’t their fault. The NME (who else?) for instance stuck them on the cover of their magazine before they had even recorded a single note of music. An act which automatically cranked the hype machine up to 100 and made people hate them before they had actually heard them.
The Horrors didn’t help themselves though when they finally release some music. Their first album, 2007’s ‘Strange House’ was an under produced homage to sixties American garage rock if played by privileged teenagers (at least two of the band attended Rugby Public School) who listed to way too many Cramps records. It was preceded by a three-minute garage rock single called ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ that came accompanied by a video in which a woman gave birth to a Squid.
Then there was look, big hair, styled expensively with lots of lacquer, black clothes, mascara, very expensive looking leather jackets, skinny jeans (black obviously). All photos were taken in black and white on a white background. It was like the Psychedelic Furs had been shoved in a Delorean and transported to 2007. Everyone gave the Horrors six months at best, apart from the NME who one more than occasion proclaimed them to be the future of rock and roll. They weren’t quite that, in fact in 2007, they were a bit daft.
However, in 2009 the Horrors returned with ‘Sea Within a Sea’, an eight-minute blast of Krautrock brilliance that revealed a band that had totally transformed and had suddenly developed a knack for making songs with dizzingly fantastic climaxes. Gone was the garage rock sound that seemed obsessed with gothic rock, gone were the shrieking vocals and in from nowhere seemingly was a psychedelic sound that revealed a band who had suddenly discovered a trunk full of Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine and Can records. It was unexpectedly superb and they had ditched some of the black clothing too. In 2009, even the Horrors wouldn’t have recognised the Horrors from 2007, largely because they had ditched the ‘shocked Goth’ look although they did still wear expensive leather jackets.
A few months later, the bands second album, ‘Primary Colours’ landed and it was again superb but this time, thanks to ‘Sea Within a Sea’ people didn’t run away from it, they embraced it. It is full of guitars that swoon, organs that swirl, vocals that croon, drums that crash. There is barely a bad moment, barely a note out of place, it is awesome, and it is only when you’ve stopped pinching yourself do you realise that The Horrors were about to realise their hype.
Since 2009, the Horrors have been one of the most consistently brilliant bands around, they have now released five albums, four of which are excellent, and a bunch of EP’s. This ICA is compiled on the band’s releases between 2009 and 2017. If you are new to the Horrors and want somewhere to start then I recommend ‘Primary Colours, then ‘V’ and then sweep up all the bits in between.
But, until then, let’s start here
Sea Within A Sea (2009, XL Records, taken from ‘Primary Colours’)
Which as I said earlier is an eight minute Krautrock blast of brilliance that swoops and soars dramatically as wonky keyboards build in the background and as Faris Badwans vocals go all echo-ey and misty eyed it builds into a euphoric climax, courtesy of Geoff Barrow’s sublime production. I say this knowing that it will sound ridiculous but the effect of Barrow on this is almost as important as Weatherall was to ‘Loaded’. It’s bloody great, all of it, every single second of it.
Still Life (2011, XL Records, taken from ‘Skying’)
The bands third album ‘Skying’ was released in 2011, and its first single was a track called ‘Still Life’. It is a song that is full of hazy dynamism that flirts with dance music and embraces the meatier side of shoegaze and echoes the Cure when they are at their most playful. The faint sprinkle of a brass section fires up before the amps explode with the guitars.
Hologram (2017, Total Wolf Records, 2017, taken from ‘V’)
‘Hologram’ according to the band stared out in life as a 25-minute ambient jam, so thank god that by the time the band finally got round to recording it they had recruited uber producer Paul Epworth, who talked the band down from that idea. Instead of 25 minutes of ambient jamming we now get a twisting stew of electronica, Beefheart style guitars and what sounds like an acid infused 303’s.
Change Your Mind (2014, XL Records, taken from ‘Luminous’)
‘Luminous’ is perhaps the Horrors record that I return to the least. It’s not as nearly perfect as ‘Primary Colours’ and not as joyous sounding as ‘V’ but when it’s good, it’s outstanding. ‘Change Your Mind’ for instance is the one of the stand-out tracks if you ask me. It has an excellent croon from Badwan which appears to be him dithering over doing something stupid (like make another Screaming Lord Sutch tribute album perhaps…?) and some pretty abstract music running through it.
Monica Gems (2011, XL Records, taken from ‘Skying’)
Side one ends with a no nonsense indie glam rock stomper, where Badwan tries to turn himself into Brett Anderson but actually ends up more like Simon Le Bon when he was brilliant (for those in the dark that was for about a week, when ‘Rio’ came out – but what a week it was). ‘Monica Gems’ is all decadent sighs and tuneful moaning and a simply wonderfully sounding guitar swirl.
It’s A Good Life (2017, Total Wolf Records, taken from ‘V’)
‘It’s A Good Life’ would essentially be unremarkable if it were not for its subject, that being the late Peaches Geldof, whom Badwan dated. It sees Badwan completely unguarded, fragile and sounding slightly uneasy as he sings “She lay in the dark, but I don’t know who found her,” in a lyric that revisits her untimely and tragic death.
So Now You Know (2014, XL Records, taken from ‘Luminous’)
The band’s fourth album came three years after the third one, and it sees the band adopting a late nineties indie feel, all shimmering guitars, gentle breakbeats and Radiohead style electronica. It also sounds a bit like Simple Minds from their high school movie soundtrack phase, you know, back when they were good and not making pompous records about Steve Biko.
I See You (2014, XL Records, taken from ‘Luminous’)
‘I See You’ was the first taste we all got of the fourth Horrors records, and it sees them back in kind of familiar territory. ‘I See You; is a seven and a half minute dazzle of a track. The sort of track that would sound perfect if you listened to it at midnight by a lake as the full moon shimmered over it.
Who Can Say (2009, XL Records, taken from ‘Primary Colours’)
There is a brilliant moment on ‘Who Can Say’ where the Horrors morph into not one but two 60 girl groups, first, like so many bands before them, they steal the drum line from the Ronettes ‘Be My Baby’ and then Badwan does his best Shangri La’s impression with a spoken word section that tell us knowingly “And then I kissed her… with a kiss that could only mean goodbye” before the psychedelic guitars all kicks back in.
Something to Remember Me By (Total Wolf Records, 2017, taken from ‘V’)
The final track on the band’s fifth and so far last album ‘V’ is the marvellous ‘Something to Remember Me By’. This is a glittering seven-minute epic built around a synth that pulses like the best bits of ‘Technique’ era New Order that may just be the best thing that the Horrors have ever done.
Consider this the first comment on this ICA.
I adore ‘Who Can Say’ – indeed, I’ve a copy on 7″ vinyl that was gifted to me by my pal Drew. I bought ‘Primary Colours’ on CD but was never taken enough by it to become a dedicated follower of The Horrors and never pursued things afterwards. Judging by the songs on this excellent ICA, the loss is all mine. Cheers SWC. Hugely appreciated.
7 thoughts on “(BONUS POST) AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #340: THE HORRORS”
Sea within a Sea is an utter classic record – track 6 on my best final album tracks ICA (ICA No 176) – and The Horrors are a great band – brilliant live around the time of Primary Colours and to me they’ve never bettered that album
I do have a soft spot for SheenaIs A Parasite and would’ve found room for it on an ICA – more for it’s sheer ridiculous daftness than anything else
I picked up Primary Colours from a charity shop and was absolutely blown away by it, having heard some of the early stuff and been… underwhelmed. I’ve added Skying and Luminous over the years, but now I know I need to seek out V as well.
Great selection from the albums I know.
New act to me but I’m already convince by SWC’s class writing. Proper ICA.
Top stuff, some great music in there. Sea Within A Sea and Who Can Say? are both superb. Can I mention the pair of Weatherall remixes too, each rather fine
I am one of those people that was so turned off by the 1st stuff I never gave them a further listen. With the words “eight minute Krautrock blast of brilliance” you have me excited to check them out!
Was one of those people who was put off by the look , the nme hype and sound of early songs . Been tempted as reviews got better and better but for some reason never taken the plunge so really looking forward to listening to this
A long waited ICA. Great work SWC. Thanks for it