The Horrors – Skying


Artist

Album

Skying

Label

XL Recordings

Year

2011

For Fans Of

My Bloody Valentine – Joy Division – Cat’s Eyes

Summary

Calling the shots leads to stunning results on album number three.

Rating

88 / 100

Like a caterpillar forming a cocoon and later emerging as a butterfly, UK five-piece The Horrors are a band undergoing a metamorphosis. When they first emerged in 2005 they were gloomy looking goths who worshipped at the alter of 60s garage punk. Their 2007 debut album Strange House was full of noisy and chaotic rock that paid homage to their garage punk predecessors and caused a modest stir in underground circles. However, it was not until the release of the band’s second record, Primary Colours, that the masses really took notice. Their second album signaled a change in musical direction, with its refined combination of shoegaze, psychedelic and post-rock influences earning the band near universal praise from both fans and critics alike. The mounting pressure to follow up an album like this could prove the undoing of some bands. Where does a band go when there are such high expectations riding on their next release? In this case, The Horrors have overcome the strains of hype by taking control of production, recording at their own studio and further evolving their already complex sound on album number three.

On Skying, the gloomy aura that once hovered above the band’s gothic demeanor has cleared to reveal a more optimistic sounding Horrors, reflected in the brightly lit Polaroid overlooking an ocean that graces the album’s cover. Like the various references to the seaside that feature throughout Skying (see ‘Dive In’, ‘Oceans Burning’ and ‘Endless Blue’), the album has a essence of tranquility and freedom that was perhaps influenced by The Horrors’ decision to produce it themselves at their own self-built studio in London.

Opener ‘Changing the Rain’ sets the tone as it plods along with swirling synthesizers that summon a dreamlike soundscape before exploding into a shimmering chorus. It’s a track that drifts further away from the screechy garage punk of their debut and instead sees the band drawing influence from shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and new wavers Simple Minds. Likewise, You Said’ has more in common with the current chillwave genre than it does with conventional rock, as it revolves around sparkling keys and vocalist Faris Badwan’s plea of "you’ve got to give me love/you’ve got to give me more". The track shakes off any notions that The Horrors need to stick to a certain sound/genre while displaying an uplifting side to their usual gloom-riddled sentiment.

As the album progresses, the material on Skying becomes increasingly diverse. As previously mentioned, The Horrors took complete control over the direction of this album, and as a result, there’s an evident mix in their personal tastes and influences. The retro rock of ‘Monica Gems’ and ‘Dive In’ push Joshua Hayward’s electric guitar to the foreground, while the euphoric explosion of ‘I Can See Through You’ ups the tempo with its spun out psychedelia and pounding rhythm until a track like ‘Wild Eyed’ slows down proceedings with ambient horns that drift on a sea of guitars and keys. Somewhere in the middle is ‘Still Life’, which perfectly encapsulates The Horrors‘ current musical incline: it’s melancholy, melodic and memorable. Its sparkling keys float amongst thumping bass, bustling horns and Badwan’s chant of "when you wake up you will find me".

Nestled around the end of the album is highlight ‘Moving Further Away’. This sprawling epic lures the listener into a hazy trance as it journeys through the motions during its eight and a half minutes of sonic bliss. It’s reminiscent of ‘Sea Within A Sea’ from Primary Colours with added drug-inspired incongruity courtesy of some dolphin-like (or are they bird?) sounds in the middle. It’s a great one to just lose yourself in (along with equally drawn out Pink Floyd-esque closer, ‘Oceans Burning’).

Conclusion

Like the endless horizon on the cover of Skying, The Horrors are proving they have no boundaries in sight to restrict their creativity. Their critically acclaimed second album, Primary Colours, was never going to be easy to follow, but against the odds, they have unified to create an intriguing new chapter in their sound. Produced by the band and recorded at their own studio, Skying is an expansive and engaging listen from start to end.

Tracklisting

1. Changing The Rain
2. You Said
3. I Can See Through You
4. Endless Blue
5. Dive In
6. Still Life
7. Wild Eyed
8. Moving Further Away
9. Monica Gems
10. Oceans Burning

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