The NME have declared the Horrors latest album “Primary Colours” to be a defining moment in the history of music, forget all that has come before, for that was mere frippery and foolishness, The Horrors have redefined Rock N’ Roll …..Bizarrely many within the blogsphere seem to have been affected by an identical form of mass hysteria, squealing with delight and somewhat prematurely bestowing “Album Of The Century” plaudits on “Primary Colours”.However upon hearing the album in its entirety we remain resolutely unconvinced that this “new direction” is actually anything more than a cynical and calculated hatful of hollow driven by a ruthless and unrelenting hype machine to generate “buzz“. We therefore decided to give the job of reviewing The Horrors album to a man who has seen it all, who witnessed the birth of “Goth” and who has the experience and wisdom to forensically slice through the PR bluster and investigate if there is any merit whatsoever in the fatuous assertions that “Primary Colours” is on a par with “Psycho Candy” or “Disintegration“. We therefore summoned Richard the Goth from his North Yorkshire Mausoleum, jemmied his coffin lid open and politely requested he give us the definitive verdict on the Horrors latest offering.-VP
UNIVERSAL PIPTURES IN ASSOCIATION WITH 20th CENTURY GOTH PROUDLY PRESENT
“CARRY ON UP THE CRYPT”
(A HILARIOUS FARCE IN WHICH FIENDISH FARIS AND HIS FRIENDS ATTEMPT TO CONVINCE A SCEPTICAL PUBLIC AS TO THE MERITS OF THEIR “NEW DIRECTION”)
Words: Richard the Goth
Cast your minds back, if you will, to those far-off innocent times shortly before the NME decided that Glasvegas were the bright shiny future of pop music and then began their inexorable and undignified climb up James Allan’s fundament. There was a brief period of time when said publication tried to put forward The Horrors as the latest guiding beacon for a lost generation of pop kids, and somehow it all sounded so right on paper to begin with. Some holy hallowed names were invoked in the process: they were the skewed warped voodoo ju ju of the The Cramps, the white-knuckle rollercoaster ride through Hades of The Birthday Party at their hellish narcotic peak, the sexed-up whiskey priest sinners of The Gun Club. Throw in the strychnine-soaked sixties garage trash of The Sonics and that, said the hacks, was The Horrors in a nutshell. Good God, we all thought, that sounds amazing, what could possibly go wrong? Well, alas, apparently everything could, and the band turned out to be not the beautiful bastard offspring of the legends named above, but a bunch of hopeless chancers who’d spent more time back-combing their barnets and raiding some dusty old Victorian gentleman’s dressing-up box than they had on actually writing anything even half decent. I personally don’t think I’ll ever be able to forgive them for wasting half an hour of my life when they were bottom of the bill to The Jesus And Mary Chain at Brixton in 2007. Their hopeless pantomime reeked of desperation and they rank as one of the phoniest acts it’s ever been my misfortune to witness. Faris, dear, you can climb the speaker stacks and hurl yourself over the barriers but it doesn’t make you Lux Interior, and dropping to your knees and howling at the moon while tugging distractedly at your hairdo does not automatically put you up there with Nick Cave. When The Mary Chain took to the stage, it must have been an abject humiliating lesson for them when Jim Reid, a middle-aged man with sensible shoes, neat short back and sides, and zero stage histrionics, taught them that you just can’t play at it: you’ve either got innate rock ‘n’ roll cool pumping through your veins or you ain’t. And, well, The Horrors quite obviously didn’t.
But that was then and this, apparently, is now. They have miraculously forged a brave new direction, website blogs are awash with awe at the profound shiny black gothic beastie they have become, and our old friends at the NME inform us that this LP “will change everything”. No hyperbole there, then…
It takes a very special sort of band indeed to borrow some of the coolest elements of leftfield-indie-goth-rock’s past, throw them together, and still manage to make a colossal c*ck-up of it, but The Horrors are quite clearly just the band for the job. On Primary Colours, there are Joy Division bass lines galore, the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound 60s girl group drumbeats so beloved of The Mary Chain circa Just Like Honey/Sowing Seeds, a pinch of early Bauhaus, a smidge of Psychedelic Furs, classic Faith/Pornography era Cure, and yet somehow they miss the point by a million miles. To these ears, the one major sound that they’ve homed in on, like hyenas on a lame zebra, is the brain-bending swathes of woozy distorted guitar perfected by Kevin Shields on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and they seem to be so thrilled with it that it’s pretty much shoe-horned into every bloody song whether it belongs there or not.
It all gets off to an underwhelming start with Mirror’s Image, a veritable car crash of MBV guitar, ambient noodling, and mid-80s Bowie, and then it’s pretty much downhill all the way from there. There are 2 songs where for a few brief moments you hope they’re actually going to turn out a decent tune – Who Can Say is at first redolent of early Psychedelic Furs and might’ve made for a good song had Butler Rep been at the helm, but this being The Horrors, you don’t have to wait long before the hideously out-of-place keyboards and quite possibly the most cringeworthy spoken-word middle eight ever committed to record arrive on the scene to stamp out any such lurking potential. The rumour mill is apparently in overdrive as to whether the spoken section is aimed at Peaches Geldof or not, but by the time the dreadful “get away, get away” ending had hoved into view, I found myself not giving a flying f**k whether it was about Peaches or the man from Del Monte quite frankly.
Next up is Do You Remember, an MBV rip-off so blatant that, if Kevin Shields’ legal people ever get to hear it, there could well be trouble.
On and on it goes – Scarlet Fields is the only other song that, courtesy of its Joy Division bass, makes you think it might be half decent, until those god-awful keyboards and (you’ll never guess… go on, try…) MBV guitars completely swamp it out again. By far the worst thing about the band has to be Faris’ voice. He’s a poor lyricist, and an even poorer vocalist. He simply just doesn’t have any power, any presence, any panache. Nuls points.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, here’s Only Think Of You to prove you wrong, and this one is just plain hilarious. As if the sub-Peter Murphy crooning isn’t bad enough, there’s a string section on it that is quite clearly recorded in such a way that is meant to render it off-key, disorientating and atonal. Well, that’s probably the effect they were hoping for, but unfortunately it reminded me of nothing quite so much as the chamber orchestra in the dinner party scene of the classic Carry On Up The Khyber after the Governor’s mansion has been shelled and the ceiling has collapsed on them, and they valiantly attempt to play on tunelessly. I’m afraid that if The Horrors had been that house band, Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond would have drawn his service revolver and shot them.
This sorry slab of an LP finally draws to a close with the supposed epic Sea Within A Sea and, sadly, like many of the world’s great bodies of water, it too is awash with poisonous toxic sludge and more raw sewage than you’d care to imagine. They so desperately want it to be an epic tour-de-force, but the material simply isn’t there. It starts out sounding like Bauhaus having a stab at The Knack’s My Sharona, before straying off into a Depeche Mode-esque electropop middle bit which takes you back to that horrible period in the mid 80s when otherwise fine bands would artificially stretch their singles into a 12″ mix simply by bunging in a load of boring superfluous drumbeats just to flesh it out. And finally, mercifully, it’s over.
As far as “new directions” go, this one ranks alongside the cynical career ploy of no-hope indiepop moppets Fear Of Flying who suddenly donned black army shirts, stopped smiling and tried to pass themselves off as the Joy Division/Echo And The Bunnymen de nos jours White Lies. Similarly The Horrors have miraculously ceased to be wild-eyed gutter urchins and are now apparently sophisticated international men of mystery, and the whole band now have suitable down-played haircuts and outfits for the photo-shoots and videos. It’s that calculated, and that shallow, and unfortunately it comes across as that transparent. It isn’t the much-vaunted maturing progression of a band at all: – they tried to be frenzied garage demons and fell flat on their ar*es, so they’re having a crack at being something else instead.
It’s not saying much, but the music’s a marginal improvement on The Horrors of old, but the problem remains that they will never be able to escape the fact that they are forever shackled to their own overwhelming cack-handed amateurishness, and no amount of reinvention will ever be able to turn dogsh*t into diamonds.
So, Primary Colours, on a scale of 1 to 10? Less than one, actually.
So there you have it, but such is the pant moistening adulation being heaped upon this album we thought a second opinion was needed, and who better than our regular columnist, a bastion of no nonsense common sense, Radio Cheambeat’s Oliver Dogwood. When we mentioned The Horrors to him he almost choked on his Bovril, before spluttering his favourite beef flavoured infusion all over his Sta-prest Farah slacks….. here’s what he had to say ..
Hello Dogwood here.
I admire Dickens as a writer, his Christmas classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ serves to remind me that nothing good comes about by being a maudlin ‘poor me, poor me’ merchant. His film-making is unsurpassed and his musical about the Jewish feller, “Oliver Reed!” and the annoying child who keeps getting himself lost puts me in mind of what life was like in Preston c.1954. Talking of Preston c.1954, my favourite Christmas Cracker gag of all time surfaced around that Christmas. It goes something like this:
Q: “Name the Victorian serial killer who lived on the bottom of the ocean?”
A: “Jack The Kipper”
All this Dickensian/Victorian wisteria leads me to conclude that whilst I like to dip into the age of child labour, slums and consumption for occasional entertainment, I would not want to live there. The Horrors, however, it seems to me, apparently do.
I don’t do backcombed hair, stovepipe trousers and pointy shoes gadding about in an annoying fashion around Whitechapel and Clerkenwell for the bloody hell of it all. I’ve seen these types lounging about bars in Camden, drinking absinthe chasers and their Mary Kelly’s, ordering their lobster and lettuce. The Dickensian waifs new wave has apparently washed up on the beaches of Suburban Londonium and I find myself tutting more and shaking my head in disbelief as another doe faced “Little Dorrit“ walks past. They call themselves such ludicrous names such as “Ferris Wheel“ and “Rubella Nightshade” and swoon and have regular attacks of the vapours. It’s tiresome down “the Crown” when a crowd of these “would be” Chuzzlewits start knocking back the absinthe. They talk in loud tones to annoy the locals and in hushed reverential tones when the subject of The Horrors comes up.
I don’t do The Horrors, an unseemly mix of ‘racket‘ and ‘foggy olde Londonium’ does not rock’n’roll make. More like rock’n’rile. They rile me something chronic with their bizarre London Dungeon gait and ‘Ooh look at him over there, with his Farah’s and sensible windsheater, that must be Dogwood that must be’ arch piss-taking.
Yes it is me and far better a sensible pair of trousers and protection against the elements than trying to become a human silhouette. Yet, they don’t see it that way and the local Horrors fans have taken to lounging around Dogwood cottage and leaving their half-used opium cakes uneaten amongst the Dahlias. A right bloody mess.
If it’s not bad enough that I have the local hoodies with their outsized trousers going south routine, the local Apache Indian revival crew and a smattering of Emus with their Jack Skellington regalia to contend with. I now have a gang of would be late Victorian serial killer fetishists with their “Phantom Raspberry Blower“ skits.
Life is never easy for the likes of me. As I get older, the habits of the young never cease to confuse and confound me. I know that lads of my vintage went round wearing Edwardian drapes and bum freezer jackets but at least they had some point. Looking like a John Cooper Clarke clone with an official residence address of Flat 13, Bleak House seems a tad too pointless to me.
Now I’m off to attend the inaugural evening of Ivor The Engine enthusiasts, an evening that I hope will be totally devoid of Mr and Ms Horror.