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The Horrors

Primary Colors

Rating: 4.0

Label: Beggars XI Recording

My apologies to The Horrors: I fell asleep during the first three listens of Primary Colors. Please rest assured that it wasn’t the music that knocked me out, but rather my extreme lack of sleep. On the contrary, Primary Colors is an invigorating work of ghastly guitars and intimidating melodies that’s sure to make any rock fan optimistic about the current state of the Brit-rock scene. The band’s approach to garage rock brims with a grimy but surprisingly artistic attitude, and is a refreshing response to the prim and polished sounds of revival pioneers like The Vines and Jet.

Think of The Horrors as a gothic reincarnation of their punk and garage rock predecessors. The band’s 2007 debut Strange Houses matched grit with an eerie ambiance straight out of a classic horror film (hence the appropriate band name). Primary Colors boasts an evolved sound that veers toward progressive sensibilities while retaining a stripped-down exterior. Spider Webb’s signature organ takes a breather this time around, and the vacancy is often filled by Tomethy Furse’s modulated keyboards and haunting orchestral samples. Its works quite well. The inebriated strings on songs like “Three Decades” and the demented ballad “I Only Think of You” add a depth not fully explored on the debut album. It’s an encouraging indicator of what The Horrors could offer in the future.

Between the synthetic new age bookend moments, The Horrors lead us through a grab bag of haunting rock songs. Several offerings sound directly influenced by The Cure (listen to the title track for a prime flashback to the 1980s), but to the band’s credit, some pieces are unique works of their own. “Sea Within a Sea” melds the aforementioned garage rock with a dash of surf and Gypsy music before breaking into charismatically obsolete electronica. “New Ice Age” is a spaced-out garage rock hallucination. The Horrors’ innate sound crosses many tonal barriers, from palpitating to ethereal, from obnoxious to beautiful. You know you’ve found talent when a band executes this effortlessly.

The album’s production values are likewise reminiscent of the ’80s, but don’t let that fool you; The Horrors aren’t trying to exploit this seemingly never-ending fad. The instrumentation’s lo-fi layers create a ghostly live venue sound. When the onslaught of dissonant ambiance in the opener “Mirror’s Image” kicks in, it’s as if The Horrors are personally ushering us into their grim castle; singer Faris Badwan belts his vocals at us in a Dracula-like drawl and for 45 minutes we are thrown vicariously into a dark and disturbing lifestyle. A listen to Primary Colors is more than music – it’s an experience. And, with the extreme exception of overtiredness, it is sure to boil your blood. In a good way, of course.

by Jory Spadea

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