Album Review: The Horrors – Skying

By on Tuesday, 19th July 2011 at 12:00 pm
 

The best, and to be honest, only decent moment of this record, ‘Skying’ from the Horrors, happens about 2 minutes before the end, when the band actually wake up and start playing with emotion. The drums really start whacking, there’s shards of dissonant synth all over the place, and the vocal… well actually the vocalist just keeps singing the same note he’s been singing since the beginning. But they actually sound alive, unlike the preceding hour or so, when it sounds like they’re all dosed up in a Valium smog, dismally plucking away.

Mid-tempo, mid-pitch, middle-of-nowhere, there’s no highs or lows here. Drowned in that thin, reverb-heavy production that is unmercifully fashionable at present, it takes the patience of a saint to work out who’s actually playing what – in the end, you give up caring, the songs washing out like a grey sea at slack water, neither one thing nor the other.

Three tracks in, some light relief comes in ‘I Can See Through You’, with its forcible bass and tambourine to brighten things up a bit. Faris Badwan, he of the microphone, comes mighty close to discovering a second octave, and certainly the band add a couple more chords to their repertoire; these are small but welcome mercies. ‘Endless Blue’ starts with a pointless jam, before a dissonant, squalling guitar riff (the song’s one point of interest), before repeating itself endlessly. This will probably go down well with those that didn’t like shoegaze, not because it was a boring genre, but because their attention spans were too short. So here we have it: the perfect song for dull, jumpy people.

‘Still Life’ is a 5-minute, three-chord, cod-stadium filler with synth all over the place and literally nowhere to go, repeating the same linear song structure as can be heard throughout the album. To prove it, skip through the track at thirty-second intervals, and it all sounds the same – except with the volume turned up a bit at the end. ‘Wild Eyed’ is a bit better, still something of a noodling jam, just with a bit of brass at the end, but at least it has a groove. ‘Moving Further Away’ is a big departure here, because we’re now down to two chords! Not to worry, the noodling – synths, guitars, seagulls – only lasts for 8 minutes. Tonally, we’re stuck in teenage poetry mode: blurred, repetitive invocations of moody skies, desolate landscapes and the effects of depressant drugs…supposedly grand and imposing, but just as easily coming across as lazy and predictable.

Much has been made of the multifarious ’80s influences contained here, giving chin-stroking musos something of a “Name That Band” parlour game to play. The list is too exhaustive to repeat; suffice to add an extra couple of notable ’80s influences: Chas and Dave’s ‘Rabbit’, on the basis of its repetitive content, and the Tweets’ ‘Birdie Song’ (editor’s note: aka Matt Thomas of the Joy Formidable’s “favourite” song), for similar use of high-pitched synth.

The greatest crime here is that this is ugly, carbuncular music. The vocals wobble precariously several times, the drums plod predictably: this is essentially sound of a band stumbling across a handful of half-baked melodies and playing them to death, more interested in their fashionable stylings and influences than doing anything genuinely moving. With so many talented musicians out there making truly beautiful music, there really is little time for this sort of dirge.

4/10

‘Skying’, the new album from the Horrors, is out now on XL.

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[…] say that the purest blend the five boys from Southend-on-Sea have achieved so far was on 2011’s ‘Skying’, but all the right signs we’re there with the first single from the band’s upcoming album […]

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