Friday, July 30, 2010

Album Review: The Horrors – Primary Colours


Reviewing 2009’s Primary Colours is a bit like playing “spot-the-influence”. There are a whole lot of influences thrown in here, but I suppose the base material is Interpol twisted through a My Bloody Valentine sieve. Also the fact is that these guys are clearly posh boys. It shouldn’t really make a difference, I am one myself, but it’s harder to empathise with anguished, over-privileged doom-mongers.

The first track Mirror’s Image starts off with some esoteric keyboards and funnily enough is reminiscent of the beginning of U2’s Zooropa album. This is dispelled by the entrance of a confident bass line, a wonderful progression of notes that sounds effortless and this is joined by the guitar doing the Kevin Shields / My Bloody Valentine “waaiirr”. “Is it the way,” he sings, “is it the way she looks at you” and it isn’t, it’s the bassline, the guitar and the synths. It’s a thrilling and exciting way to start the album.

However, it’s a hard trick to repeat over a whole album, as it soon becomes clear that the MBV effect is going to repeated over and over throughout the album, as next track Three Decades illustrates. Who Can Say races along on a bed of Jesus and Mary Chain style guitars and fairground-style keyboards, and is ‘distinguished’ by a cringe-worthy spoken word bit in the middle (“and when I told her I didn’t love her any more… she cried”).

The singer is capable of a whole range of vocal stylings. Brett Anderson is his inspiration on Do You Remember, which doesn’t sound a million miles away from Suede. New Ice Age starts off ominously, with foreboding bassline and synths, building up into a crescendo, bursting into a Chameleons-style number. It’s somewhat ruined by the brattish, strangled vocals though (exhibit A: his howl “the AGONY!”).

Scarlet Fields sounds a lot like a coupling between Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Pretty In Pink by the Psychedelic Furs. The bass line is a dead ringer for the morose Mancunian’s track while the singer does a fantastic impression of Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler. It works really well. Next track, I Only Think Of You (they’d been scanning Loveless for song titles as well as guitar effects!) sounds like NYC by Interpol but stretched out and ran through the MBV sieve to seven minutes in length.

After the insistent, Spiritualized knock-off I Can’t Control Myself, we are back on steady ground with title track Primary Colours, which has a nice pace and tempo to it, a bit like The Cure with Andrew Eldritch on vocals. Sea Within A Sea is the final and longest track, and is possible the most interesting. It starts quite simply with a simple, repeating bass note which shifts up slightly in line with the vocal melody, then halfway through adds a muted Morricone-style guitar part, before evolving into a Depeche Mode synth track. It actually works pretty well and is a good way to finish the album.

But will I be listening to it in 18 months?

Ideal circumstances to listen: A dingy basement rock venue, full of sweaty bodies and ne’er-do-well’s, while drinking Snakebite. While pretending to be a 20 year old.