Rising to the Top
The Horrors are climbing steadily up the UK charts with their third studio album Skying. It’s to be expected after the success of Strange House (2007) and Primary Colours (2009), their noisy post-punk and hazy shoegaze earning much public acclaim. Skying is unique, however: It’s the first record produced by the band, in the studio they built. In many ways that explains the band’s new sound. Primary Colours was loud, raunchy, full of churning guitar and deep, raw vocals. Skying is laced instead with horns, synths, and interwoven melodies, and the vocals are smoother, more mature.
Critics have made grocery lists of influences on Skying, citing Echo and the Bunnymen and Psychedelic Furs among others, and it does lean toward the music of the ’80s. On the marvelous “Still Life,” retro synths accentuate a melodic bass tune and guitars soaked in reverb—it wouldn’t sound out of place on the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie. The lengthy “Moving Further Away” makes use of futuristic synths too, unfurling in an eight-and-a-half-minute spacey jam.
The Horrors take a leap off the deep end on “Endless Blue,” landing in a wonderfully evocative ocean of sound. A meandering bass melody anchors the track, floating amid muted horn flourishes and billowing effects. The song suddenly transitions into rock mode with distorted guitars and a fast tempo, but the switch is fluid and well-executed. “Endless Blue” shows The Horrors’ potential for songwriting, letting the band break out from its post-punk mold.
At times the noise and distortion on Skying become overwhelming, drowning out the vocals and emerging melodies. “Monica Gems” and “Wild Eyed” fall prey to this tendency, engulfing the vocals in fuzzy guitar or heavy-handed, repetitive synthesizers. This is only a minor hitch in what is overall a solid album. The Horrors have come a long way since Strange House and Primary Colours, and it looks like we can expect a lot more from them in the future.