[sic] Magazine

The Horrors – Primary Colours

Two years ago, Faris Rotter got beaten up on the streets of London for looking out of place. That same week, his band The Horrors found themselves on the front cover of NME. But still, opinion on the band’s music was severely divided, so much though that cynics or sceptics went as far as giving the proverbial “fuck off” to ‘Strange House’. Today, the band are proverbially embraced, returning to the front cover of the NME, Rotter is shaking hands with the masses, instead of receiving an earful and an eyeful.

What gives? ‘Sea Within A Sea’, that’s what gives. Everything the Horrors had been working towards since the pre-dawn backlash came down to how people responded to the eight-minute-long song. It was evident that they cared, that they were there to prove something. ‘Sea Within A Sea’ may be the least indicative track in terms of what occurs during ‘Primary Colours’ sound-wise, but it draws you in with an expectation of how special the Horrors might have become. Their influences, from Neu to, like it or not, Joy Division, shimmer in the background of the varied soundscape, ranging from sensitive ambient slow-burners to the full-frontal, obnoxious and edgy evil twin of the record. Everything about the album is moulded to help achieve the band’s goals, particularly the recording process: tracks were played in an underground studio, devoid of windows or sunlight, helping to contribute to this gloomy, garage output.

‘Primary Colours’ isn’t just here to prove a point, though. Something could have been released mid-way, to suggest a smooth transitioning of ideas and output, but instead this sophomore release sounds more like a goodbye album, capable of diminishing any initial criticisms for good. Maybe Rotter and co. have more in them, but you get the sense that their masterpiece is right here, right now. It’s that unique feel to the album that doesn’t begrudge them that compliment. If in twenty years time, ‘Primary Colours’ is listed as one of the most iconic albums of all time, any newcomer wouldn’t have to listen long to see where people are coming from. It’s one of a kind in mastering the post-punk period that so many acts have woefully attempted to incorporate into their sound.

The best things come from nowhere and to say you expected exactly this dramatic shift would be point-blank lies. Yet as unexpected as it is, ‘Primary Colours’ sounds authentic, truthful in its intentions. ‘I Only Think Of You’, the elongated, drawn-out centrepiece of the record, is the frankest and boldest move the band make. Near-on-reversed strings dominate a spacey, psychedelic atmosphere, becoming oddly beautiful, as wrong as that might sound.

This exposed view of the record is restricted by a more streamlined and up-close majority of the songs. The title-track is an up-lifting venture into the more optimistic side of the songwriting, utterly compelling, almost replicable by Coldplay were it not for the dreary background garage noise and the fascinatingly darker break section. In contrast, the rest of the more pacy tracks restrain when it comes to putting on a smile. ‘Three Decade’s free-flowing synths are distressing. ‘Do You Remember’s disjointed guitars are equally as uncomfortable to listen to and ‘New Ice Age’ quite forcefully grabs hold of you with a striking disposition: Rotter’s opening line of “The AGONY!” is the most eye-opening split second of the entire album. However it’s when The Horrors combine gleeful sounds with miserable lyrics that victors can emerge. ‘Who Can Say’ is an anthemic tale of break-up, a theme so trivial to an onlooker, yet somehow bolstered into something huge by the crunching guitar line and Rotter’s outstanding vocal contribution. A spoken-word break to proceedings (”and when I told her, her kisses were not like before, she cried”) is capable of bringing a black tear to the eye, before luring you back into the chaotic frenzy:“Although it’s hard for me to say, I know you’re better off this way.”

And yet when ‘Sea Within A Sea’ finally arrives at the climax, as familiar as it may sound to you, it remains fresh, eye-opening in comparison to the moody bliss that has a firm grip on the rest of the album. It’s still there to prove the point, to keep reminding you of how much The Horrors have changed and where their priorities lie. ‘Primary Colours’ is a rare treat in that it’s 1) entirely consistent and 2) a second album by a British band that renders their previous work obsolete. And to think, ‘Strange House’ isn’t even a terrible record. It’s just; ‘Primary Colours’ is phenomenal.