Album review: The Horrors 'Skying'
When the Horrors released “Primary Colours“ in 2009, it proved astonishing and unexpected — one of the year’s best albums, from the band least poised for success. The U.K. five-piece’s debut, 2007’s “Strange House,” underwhelmed mightily, suggesting a Gothabilly boy-band version of the Strokes. “Primary Colours,” on the other hand, exuded radical reinvention: a sprawling masterwork of pop’s most iconoclastic sounds, spanning shoegaze and krautrock through electronic psychedelia.
The Horrors’ latest opus, “Skying,” proves nearly as exciting and surprising — the key revelatory element being the group’s embrace of melody and emotion. Nearly every review of “Skying” has compared it to the era of Simple Minds when the iconic ’80s band was filling stadiums with epic synth-rock; that romantic sweep is clearly present in the album’s dramatic first single, the hooky ballad “Still Life.” And where the Horrors previously seemed to fight against their Britpop legacy, here they embrace it — from the “Bittersweet Symphony” swirl of “Changing the Rain” to the Madchester groove of “Dive In.”
The retro sugar coating, however, belies the group’s ever-present maverick soul, which gradually reveals itself as the track list progresses: “Moving Further Away” artfully merges dance music’s repetitive narcosis with dissonant rock, while “Endless Blue” explosively evokes the noise-rock satori of “Daydream Nation”-era Sonic Youth. Taken in its full, cumulative glory, “Skying” ultimately dazzles, musically varied but singular in its ambition.
Three and a half stars (Out of four)
— Matt Diehl