Where To Start With... - September 21, 2017

Where To Start With... The Horrors
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

Where To Start With... The Horrors

When The Horrors burst onto the emerging post-punk revival scene in 2006 with their frenetic debut single 'Sheena is a Parasite', the band quickly became the darlings of the indie press, bagging themselves a slot on the NME Tour alongside the likes of The View and The Automatic. Affecting names like 'Faris Rotter' and emulating the look and sound of bands like The Damned and The Cramps, their chaotic gigs earned them a notorious reputation on the live circuit, while their debut album Strange House earned some favourable reviews. But even in those early days, it seemed that The Horrors had ambitions that went beyond being a fixture on the stages of dark and crowded clubs.

Their debut earned them a deal with XL Recordings, home to the likes of Adele, Radiohead and Vampire Weekend, and by the time of their sophomore album Primary Colours it became obvious that the band were beginning to take steps toward a sound that would appeal to a wider audience. Recruiting Chris Silvey and Portishead's Geoff Barrow as producers, their second album was well received by critics, blending elements of punk, shoegaze and goth to create a record that was more assured than their debut, and one that climbed into the Top 30 in the UK Album Chart.

Their next two albums, 2011's Skying and 2014's Luminous, would see the band continue their journey away from the noisy punk of their debut, incorporating more electronics into a sound increasingly influenced by the likes of Gary Numan, Suicide and Depeche Mode, gradually creating a sound far more polished than that of their early output. Luminous in particular suddenly saw the band being talked about in the same sentence as acts such as Muse and their erstwhile labelmates Radiohead, and for their fifth album, which arrives this week, they've upped the ante by bringing in producer Paul Epworth, a man best-known for his work on Adele's chartbusting albums 21 and 25.

Following in the footsteps of Maroon 5 and the Jonas Brothers – or not, as the case may be – The Horrors have named their fifth album V, and while it's difficult to measure exactly how much of an impact Epworth has made on the new album, what is clear is that the transition from noisy punk to full pop is complete, and that's no bad thing when you hear tracks like 'Something To Remember Me By', a slice of danceable synth-pop that might just be the best thing the band has ever done.

Not every song on V is the same vein though; while songs like 'Machine' take the album in a more industrial direction and 'Weighed Down' is a downbeat, sombre number that breaks up the pace a little, but all of it sounds deliberately geared to bigger venues and bigger audiences. The Horrors are making a play for the bigtime here, and while it doesn't always pay off it's certainly a step up from Skying and, arguably, their best record since Primary Colours.

You can fine the video for 'Machine' below, beneath that we've picked out five key tracks from their career so far...


'Sheena is a Parasite'

Their debut single and a highlight of their first album Strange House, 'Sheena is a Parasite' doesn't offer much of a clue as to what The Horrors would go on to become, but it's worth including here as a measure of just how far the band have travelled from their starting point. Brash, noisy and chaotic, this is 1:43 of pure filth.


'Who Can Say'

A song that borrows so heavily from Jay & The Americans' 'She Cried' that its spoken-word breakdown section lifts the lyrics of the entire first verse, 'Who Can Say' is a scuzzy take on Phil Spector-era Ramones and a love letter to all things 60s, complete with a video that sees frontman Faris ditching the eyeliner and dressing to impress.


'Whole New Way'

Released as a standalone single in 2009, 'Whole New Way' ended up being mixed by none other than Damon Albarn after the band had collaborated with Gorillaz on a track called 'Leviathan', which was originally due to appear on Plastic Beach, but never made the cut. Still, this is an interesting transition point between Primary Colours and its follow-up which indicates the band's direction of travel.


'Sea Within a Sea'

Sounding like a cross between some of the more exploratory moments from Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett era and Can's 'Mother Sky', 'Sea Within a Sea' is Primary Colours' parting shot and arguably one of its more interesting tracks. Badwan's distant, mournful vocals don't so much lead the song as haunt it from afar, but this is The Horrors at their most psychedelic.


'Still Life'

Our final pick is one of the best moments from 2011's Skying and finds the band channeling Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs to create one of their most radio-friendly songs to date. With glistening, glassy synths and an anthemic chorus, this is the sound of a band hitting its creative stride.


V The Horrors

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