Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Horrors

I got over my snit about being accused of music piracy by the very cover art that contained the proof of purchase, and listened to my The Horrors CDs today. I was advised to watch out by one friend because she felt they sounded unpleasantly like A Flock of Seagulls. I doubted that, but now I've listened I have to admit she has a bit of a point. There is a certain synthesizeriness to Primary Colours that does recall the 80s. But there's a big difference between their first, Strange House, and the new one. They're evolving, and not necessarily in the direction I want them to evolve.

How to describe Primary Colours?

Imagine you're at a traveling funfair or maybe a circus. The funfair has set itself up on a dusty field of stubble. There's a midway, with the usual attractions – darts, air-rifles with feathered flechettes to shoot at those trains of flat metal ducks, a coconut shy, hamburgers in fat white buns, sweet yellow popcorn in paper cones. There are balloons to pop and goldfish to win if you pitch a ping-pong ball into the right bowl. It's night and the lights of the fair are too bright, too white, glaring spotlights narrowed by the pitch dark of the sky beyond. It's warm with truck exhaust and lights and crowds, but you can sense the frost on the hills all around you in the distance. There's the usual smell of diesel and fried onions, but you can just barely catch the scent of wild tarragon on the cold breeze as you pass the gaps between the generators that form a henge in the gloom beyond the food trucks. At one point you hear a sound that might be a snatch of synthesized pop from the Waltzer or even the scrape of one of the bumper-cars' contact bars on the electrified mesh of the ceiling, but it certainly sounds like a wolf howling.

Now imagine Joy Division (for it is they) are walking down the midway, eating cotton candy. A few feet behind, three dead-eyed red-nosed clowns are following them, quietly and purposefully. At least one of the clowns appears to have very sharp teeth - very long teeth, at that. A raven-haired woman with a low-cut bodice opens the door of a gypsy vardo and stands at the top of the steps, hands on hips. You can see a color TV behind her, but the flickering picture makes no sense to you. She beckons one of the band over and he stops, hesitating, and then strides towards her, taking his hands out of his pockets as he increases his pace. You notice she has three breasts. You lose track of the rest of them in the crowds of Teds and Greasers at the foot of the Helter Skelter.

The members of Joy Division who survive that night with their minds intact, be they alive or be they dead, become The Horrors and they write and record this album, "Primary Colours".

"Strange House", subtitled "Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdoes" was a much more straightforward Goth album. It could have been recorded by a different band. It sounds like London Music Hall performed by crazy people with access to a Farfisa organ and possessed of (American) post-punk chops. Max Wall meets Crocodile Rock on Bedlam Night at CBGB. Some tracks, the Horrors' Theme in particular, resemble Max and the nutcases tackling a strange subterranean arrangement of Telstar. Schizophrenic Surf.

I have to say I like the bass-playing on Primary Colours in particular (they swapped instruments around between albums). It reminds me of Peter Hook mixed with Massive Attack. I like Massive Attack. And I like Peter Hook. Both albums are growing on me[1].

Website: http://thehorrors.co.uk/ Warning: plays sound.

[1] Ahh! Get it off me!

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.