The British band The Horrors are standing on the edge of the precipice of wider popular renown. The September 22nd release of their fifth album, “V” is the answer to the question of whether the band would jump off the edge into the race for mainstream success or decided to challenge their followers with a demanding record. This lurking question was the jump-off point for The Horrors when they reconvened to create “V”.
Their last release 2014’s Luminous has been described as fun, danceable and more approachable than The Horrors’ prior creations. The Horrors with V intentionally take another path stepping down from the euphoria personified by Luminous and choosing to make something more unsettling. They face head on the challenging task of making the kind of music they love while simultaneously attempting to attract a larger audience. On the release, they balance their dark tendencies, a love of Punk, Goth, Garage and Shoegaze genres with the need for accessibility. The Horrors utilized their past experience and well-honed musical instincts to pull off this difficult feat.
The Horrors is comprised of lead vocalist Faris Badwan, guitarist Joshua Hayward, Keyboardist Tom Cowan, bassist Rhys Webb and drummer Joe Spurgeon. The climb to their current level of acclaim began in 2005 in Southend-On-Sea. The members of the band joined forces with an interest in vinyl record collecting and Djing. Their admiration for bands like Bauhaus and Birthday Party along with other rarified artists informs their sound. Their debut 2007’s Strange House would chart in the UK Top 40 and start them on the path to renown. They would receive a boost from NME appearing on a cover in 2006 of the publication. They would also be tapped to open for numerous bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine and play various high profile festivals. 2009 would see them release their Mercury Prize-nominated recording Primary Colours which would be produced with Portishead Mastermind Geoff Barrow.
Skying would be released in 2011 and again draw significant critical and commercial favour. In 2014 the Horrors would release Luminous which they would self-produce and the album would join the ranks of the previous three releases in scoring another UK top 40 charting. After a tour supporting the album, the members took three years off to work on spinoff projects. When they returned to the studio they recruited Paul Epworth to aid in production. Epworth is probably best known for producing mass appeal artists like Adele and Rhianna along with a list of other bands and artists as long as your arm. Epworth’s recruitment was a concern for hardcore The Horrors fans who feared the new release would be a watered down recording due to his presence. However, on V The Horrors stayed true to their original roots going back to what they do best, providing thought-provoking Goth/Punk inspired fare.
V contains all of the elements that make The Horrors alluring with additional polish and verve added. Fully utilized are the band members’ impressive and well-developed tendencies. The band seems to have an eidetic memory of modern popular music’s past and aptly chooses what influences to use throughout the recording. V starts off with Hologram which is like a portal back to the initial Horror’s sonic palette. The song is full of fuzzy bass, reverb and funky guitar vibes that produce a mesmerizing psychedelic moodscape. The album moves on to Press Enter to Exit which is satisfyingly dark and murky but counterbalanced with futuristic sonics and hooks galore. The first single from the release, Machine is filled with industrial glitch and grind producing an expansive soundscape that harkens to David Bowie’s Berlin period. The songs Ghost and Point of No Reply continue to present songs loaded with moody, dreamlike vistas. Ghost is like ennui captured on tape and Point of No Reply reminds me of The Psychedelic Furs circa Heartbreak Beat. Badwan channels Richard Butler’s trademark flat effect vocal performance perfectly making the song one of my favourite tracks. The miasmic Weighted Down is like the slow unwinding of the soul set to music and is extremely arresting as it speaks to the numerous burdens of life. When things might seem to be sliding off the table into unmitigated chagrin The Horrors lighten up the mood with the uplifting World Below and It’s a Good Life. The latter song starts off as a ballad and then explodes into something completely different with a spectacular Arcade Fire like chorus.
The entire album is outstanding but what really brings it all home for me is the track, Something to Remember Me By. This is an oral supplement for my 80’s New Order Deficiency Syndrome. Listen to this selection a couple of times and you’ll feel like you have been transported to a John Hughes movie, I seriously had a moment after the first listen. This brooding, dramatic epic reflects that The Horrors took away some serious hacks from Portishead’s Geoff Barrow when he worked with them. The song is filled with a great dance beat all the while capturing you in its alluring web. The track is a fantastic contrast to rich and darker content of the first 2/3 of the album. You will certainly have something to remember the Horror’s by with this signoff track; personally, it was an earworm for me for days after listening. It is simply brilliant.
The Horrors with V should by rights be set up for long-term success. The band stayed true to their most beloved influences and genres without seeming to have compromised. To their credit, they have also made V seem effortless to create and access. The songs have a depth that will keep the listener coming back for more but also scratch itches for the signature sonics of earlier decades that are presented. The Horror’s cleverness is their ability to present those memorable sonic identifiably but also singularly as their own. They are developing their own proprietary blend and that is oh so delightful to witness. In not compromising their inner instincts and returning to their origins they have actually advanced their cause. In answer to the question of whether they are jumping into the mainstream forgoing their well-developed alternative ethos, the answer is they are desirous of mainstream acclaim but are not about to not forfeit their souls, well done!