The Horrors: V

- Of the many noughties bands who straddled the line between indie rock and looping synth textures, perhaps none made as an abrupt left-turn as English five-piece The Horrors. Starting out as a big-haired gothic punk band, their natural inclination as crate-digging music nerds saw them transform into a more elegant blend of post-punk, electronics and psychedelia.

The best example of this sound can be heard in 2011’s Skying, one of the past decade’s finest marriage of guitars, synths, danceable grooves and atmospheric shimmer. For this reviewer’s money, no one from Bloc Party to LCD Soundsystem or Kasabian have made such a convincing blend of indie rock and rhythms aimed at the dancefloor.

With this in mind, it’s always welcome to hear what the band does next. New album V (presumably named after the Roman numeral as this is indeed their fifth album) is the group’s first release since 2014 long player Luminous.

This is an interesting record from the band in that it boosts both the synths AND the rock muscle. It takes on the floating, space rock elements of the last two records, while also beefing up the rhythm section – bassist Rhys Webb and drummer Joe Spurgeon snake intuitively around the chattering synths and echoey guitar textures like Jah Wobble and Martin Atkins on those vintage Public Image Limited records. Charismatic frontman Faris Badwan is no virtuoso singer, but he does have an inviting, even quite romantic tone that ups the likeability factor considerably.

The band is still in considerable debt to post-punk, but it more resembles the baroque density of New Gold Dream-era Simple Minds over the throbbing, brooding minimalism of Unknown Pleasures-era Joy Division. This is particularly evident in Press Enter To Exit, which almost resembles a modern rethinking of Simple Minds’ 1982 classic single Glittering Prize.

There are some hints of dub-style rhythm and production in Weighed Down, spacious acoustic tenderness in Gathering and moody balladry in It’s A Good Life where a chorus of sequenced synth notes chirrup like a robotic string section.

The heart of the album, however, plays convincingly to The Horrors’ strengths – hi-tech, melodic art pop with a psychedelic krautrock heartbeat. As the shortest track on the album, the three-minute-20 World Below may be dismissed by some as a minor entry from the band. It shouldn’t, though, as it boasts the catchiest chorus and fattest groove on the whole album.

Further highlights include the gently propulsive synth-pop of Something To Remember Me By, the menacing throb and rumble of Machine and the Gary Numan-esque sci-fi dystopia soundscape of Hologram.

As their most richly produced and confident record to date, V is the sound of a band aging very gracefully indeed.

- Matt Thrower.

 

Album Details

Album Title: V
Artist: The Horrors
Record Label: (Caroline / Universal)