The Horrors’ new album Skying is getting terrific reviews from the British press and based on this lysergic video for the first single off the album, “Still Life,” I’m compelled to give a band I once shrugged off as a bunch of marginally talented pretty boy fashion victims a fresh look. Yes, they wear their influences as brashly as a brocade vest designed by Vivienne Westwood, but what fine influences they are and the band does them justice. So, if you’re a fan of eighties British new wave and synth-pop ala Echo and The Bunnymen, OMD, Teardrop Explodes, Psychedelic Furs and The Cure, you could do a lot worse than The Horrors (Interpol and The Bravery, for instance).
These slender young lads with their lovely long hair may be growing into a formidable group worthy of more than a few kind words from a cynical asshole like myself.
British garage act The Horrors are set to release their new album Skying through XL Recordings on August the 9th (US) and July 11th (UK), but you can hear the album, in full, via the widget below. In fact, it’s not really fair to describe the Horrors as “garage rock” anymore - that may have been their initial template when they burst onto the scene five years ago, but their sound has evolved and mutated quite a bit since then.
I admit I was put off the band when they first started getting press attention, consigning them to the hype bin based on their highly coiffured hair and dandy dress sense. But all that changed as soon as I actually heard them - here was a band that was keeping alive the swamp rock / dirt blues flame of acts like The Birthday Party and the awesome Gallon Drunk. Their second album Primary Colours, produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, marked a shift in tone towards something deeper and a bit more pastoral, while retaining the all important dirt and grit. With nods to krautrock, kosmiche and shoegaze, it won the band some high praise, even becoming the NME’s album of the year for 2009.
Skying continues where Primary Colours left off, though taking us further away from the 70s and 80s influences. The ghost of shoegaze still haunts The Horrors’ sound, but now, rather than the woozy, noxious and slightly nauseous tones of pioneers My Bloody Valentine, the layered guitar and synth noise is more akin to the lush soundscapes of bands like Slowdive and The Telescopes. The early Nineties seem to be what the band are tapping into for inspiration just now, and some of the tracks even feature, surprisingly, a shuffly, Madchester-style beat. “Monica Gems” is like Suede dragged backwards through a thorny hedge and there are shades of The Doors here, but as refracted through the prism of Echo and The Bunnymen (in particular the excellent track “Still Life”) . For me the album highlight is “Moving Further Away”, which starts as gorgeous, driving Germanica before before being engulfed in layers of blissful synths and ending as a dirty rock dirge. Listen for yourselves:
Farris Badwan is lead singer of the British psyche-garage troupe The Horrors, and Cat’s Eyes is his new project, co-founded with the London-based Canadian opera soprano Rachel Zeffira. The pair’s debut album, cunningly titled Cat’s Eyes, has just been released on Polydor, following up their debut Broken Glass EP which came out in January, and it’s really rather good.
What the duo are doing is nothing we haven’t seen before, but they do it very well. Take the dark romanticism of male/female duos like Nancy & Lee, Isobel & Mark, even Kylie & Nick, filter it through the girl-group and 60s pop lens of Phil Spector and inject it with occasional jolts of psyche-rock and you pretty much get the picture. What a lovely picture that is too, a balance of light and shade, of anger and tenderness blended to perfection by veteran producer Steve Osbourne.
Cat’s Eyes is not the first Horror’s off-shoot band. That honor would go to Spider And The Flies, which is Rhys and Tom experimenting with analog synths and Joe Meek-esque production techniques. That too is really good, and floats my particular boat very much. I have to admit I was really wary of the Horrors when the emerged about 5 years ago - I took one look at their haircuts and goth-dandy stylings and dismissed them straight away as another “fashion” act. Their music blew me away though, keeping alive the heavy sleaze-garage vibes of one of my favorite bands from the 90s, Gallon Drunk. Their Primary Colours album from 2009 (produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow) took their sound in a more psychedelic/shoegaze direction and straight to the top of the NME’s best albums of the year poll. Now The Horrors have just announced a short string of UK dates for this summer, and their official website says they are currently in the studio.
I eagerly await what they do next, but in the meantime am more than happy to make do with Cat’s Eyes, who have more info (and some free MP3s) at the Cat’s Eyes website. The album Cat’s Eyes is available to buy on Amazon now, here’s a taste of what’s on offer:
Cat’s Eyes - “Face In The Crowd”
Cat’s Eyes - “The Best Person I Know”
Cat’s Eyes - “Cat’s Eyes”
Cat’s Eyes - “When My Baby Comes” (Grinderman cover)
Fascinating article in Scientific American that possibly answers why depression still plagues roughly 30-50% of all people, everywhere. Since the brain plays such an essential role in promoting survival and reproduction, and depression can debilitate so thoroughly, why hasn’t mankind simply evolved beyond it?
Well, according to Doctors Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., maybe it’s time we start considering depression a “useful” disorder. One which is, “in fact, an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.” The pair backs this up with some brain-confusing brain chemistry, then moves on to make some simpler sense:
This is not to say that depression is not a problem. Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can?