Published Aug 16, 2011When The Horrors first arrived, with a glut of UK fanfare, the quintet's neo-goth look and spooky pseudonyms overshadowed their respectable garage rock revivalism. And then the band redefined their sound with stunningly assured, moody masterpiece Primary Colours. Third LP Skying lacks the underdog advantage of its predecessor, yet its density and emotional expansiveness ultimately surpass expectations. Assuming production duties, the Horrors have created a lush, nuanced album, largely ignoring simple structures in favour of shape shifting arrangements. Mostly gone are the combo's post-punk leanings, replaced by a Jenga tower of sounds. "Wild Eyed" blends airy synths and simple horn cameos with a bleak lyrical landscape, while "Dive In" has a shoegaze bent that explodes by its conclusion. Before a big-guitar volta sprints out of leftfield, "Endless Blue" begins as a fake-out ambient cut, but the melody's spryness makes it more rousing than jarring. Equally invigorating, the epic "Moving Further Away" starts earthbound, though it eventually reaches upward via chirping birds and scattershot guitar. Correspondingly peripatetic, frontman Faris Badwan's words vacillate between combative ("I Can See Through You"), encouraging ("Still Life" and "Changing the Rain") and isolated ("Moving Further Away"). Like the music, those changes in tone would be grating if it weren't for his surefooted delivery and laidback conviction, which provide much of the dynamic record's surprising cohesion.
Where are you now?
Badwan: I don't want to say this too loud in case I've got it wrong, but I think I'm in a Turkish café.
Okay. So, initially, you went to the country to work on Skying?
We tried to. It did yield our best ― well, my favourite ― song on the record, "Moving Further Away," but it was quite fragmented. Every weekend we'd have to go off to Europe to do a festival. As a result, we weren't really immersed in it.
There's this image of bands in the '70s going out to a country estate and knocking out an album.
It's funny you say that, because [bassist] Rhys [Webb] had recently watched Cocksucker Blues and that set off thoughts of idealistic imagery in his head and made him really want to do it.
Lyrically and tonally, the LP covers a lot of ground.
Every record we make has a lot of movement. I think that this one definitely has a range. I mean, you never really know ― all we do is keep writing. I don't think you should ever be aware of the themes of the record before you've made it.
So much has been made of the band's record collections.
I kind of realized a long time ago that journalists can be lazy, but you can't really begrudge them on laziness or the right to be lazy; I would do the same. On the other hand, I wonder why we get it more than other bands. I think it's impossible to make a record now without having something to compare it to, but that's not to say you can't make anything original.
The Horrors are often characterized as gloomy, but that's not necessarily the case.
No. It's interesting. I think people often describe things as "dark" or "gloomy" if there's any sort of atmosphere or intensity. I think the overall feeling for the record, for us, is uplifting. (XL)