Whenever I see a new The Horrors’ record, I can’t help but reflect on the first time that I heard about the band. Touted as saviours of rock (thanks NME), they were a mid-noughties A&R Rep’s wet dream; there was a ‘The’ in their name, they had a strict uniform of wearing nothing but black and skinny jeans and the singer sported a messed to perfection Vince Noir shag.
And the music? Well it was good. Perhaps a little too well polished and not from the heart. There was a sniff of danger, but the lyrics were buried deep in the mix so ultimately unthreatening and the music, while rocking, sounded a lot like its influences.
Fast forward to the current day and The Horrors mark a decade of albums with the release of their fifth record, the aptly titled V. A return to the rock and roll of the group’s first two LPs, via the detours and synth tours they took on their most recent two LPs, V is a crunchy, rocky, electro, poppy affair that would sound equally at home playing at an indie disco or to a stadium audience.
First track Holograms bolts out of the gates, propelled by reverberating drums and dirty, buzzing synths. On the track’s refrain, (having just listened to Gary Numan’s entire back-catalogue?), lead singer Faris Badwan asks “Are we holograms? / Are we visions?”, a concern that is revisited on Machine when he proffers “a cold simulation, so close to the truth, you will never be more than a machine”.
The album features two anthems in the form of Something to Remember Me By and Weighed Down. Both tracks feature full-blown choruses, standing close to the shoulders of electro-stadium rock giants New Order and Depeche Mode (who The Horrors toured with in 2015 and 2016 respectively). Something… is dreamy synth pop while Weighed… features messes of lovely calculated scattered beats in its verses before resolving in sky-scraping, echoey choruses.
Elsewhere, Ghost is a quiet moment that gives the listener a reprieve from the stabbing square-waved synths, as does the subtle It’s a Good Life, which is allegedly about Peaches Geldof, who Faris briefly dated. Press Enter to Exit tones down the harsh buzziness, favouring lush synthetic textures and a full chorus, with the drums juttering along like an early 90s baggy rave.
Throughout V, the music and songwriting are solid and production clear, though perhaps overly-compressed, signalling that the band are ready to make manoeuvres on the charts and reach the masses, (as the NME first proclaimed a decade ago). But The Horrors’ ability to take a range of sonic influences and inject these into their own songs is remarkable. Though they may at times only ever be a modded-synth or distorted bass line away from being a re-incarnated Echo & the Bunnymen, there are surely worse places to draw your influences from.