Monday 19 February 2018

Album Review: The Horrors * * * *

John Meagher

John Meagher

Skying

(XL Recordings)

HHHHI

It is easy to dismiss The Horrors. When they first emerged, they were hailed for greatness by the NME and, more surprisingly, some of the UK broadsheets, but in reality their brand of avant-garde indie was all style, no substance. Listening to their debut album again some years later, and there's been no Road to Damascus-style conversion to its cause -- for this writer at least.

But this, their third album, is a remarkably assured collection, that builds on the promise of their last release, Primary Colours, and is likely to be a contender for British album of the year come December. Wild Beasts' Smother should be in that mix too.

What makes Skying so compelling is the huge variation of styles and influences present and the way the fourpiece have taken elements of the past and reimagined them in a way that's exciting and fresh.

Several tracks, especially the motorik Moving Further Away, will remind many of Bowie's Berlin period -- the Thin White Duke's rich vein of creativity towards the end of the 1970s -- but one can also discern the influence of Psychedelic Furs and, somewhat bizarrely, Simple Minds.

Surely I'm not the only one who'll conjure up a mental image of Jim Kerr when listening to the epic, soaring Still Life.

A fellow critic, not given to hyperbole, reckons Still Life is among the best songs ever written and, while I'd balk at such a sweeping statement, my iTunes account reveals I've listened to it more than any other track all year.

As their Glastonbury performance showed, The Horrors have refined the art of the live gig and it's tantalising to consider how special Dive In and Endless Blue -- yet another pair of intoxicating guitar-led tracks -- will sound at a festival near you.

Burn it: Still Life; I Can See Through You; Endless Blue; Dive In

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