The Horrors - V - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Horrors - V

by Kevin Orton Rating:8 Release Date:2017-09-22

“Originality is overrated,” Elvis Costello wrote in his recent autobiography. I’m willing to bet the Horrors would second that emotion. I’ve enjoyed the Horrors from their start, Nick Cave posturing and all. And sure, they’re blatantly derivative. Before their Birthday Party pose went stale, they switched to mining The Cure with, Primary Colors. The lovely Skying continued that trend with a dash of Echo & The Bunnymen but also saw them finding their own voice. Their last, Luminous hinted at a move toward Depeche Mode. V, their latest, veers toward New Order, Krautrock and Gary Numan. As Goddard once put it, “It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.” With V, the Horrors offer an impressive lineup of influences but do they take us anywhere new? Yes and no.

‘Hologram’ asks the immortal question, “Are we all holograms?” A song that takes its cue straight from Gary Numan. Laser sounds and fuzzy guitars and a gloriously demented solo. It’s an ambitious start to an ambitious album. A sound that manages to be commercial, without compromising integrity.

‘Press Enter To Exit’ asks “How does your life become a lie?” Bawan’s vocals chiming in like a cyborg, half human, half machine. The band providing a heady cocktail of atmospherics that draw on Eno, Kraftwork and New Order. The Depeche Mode heavy ‘Machine’ could serve as a thesis for V, “you will never be more than a machine”. Sonically, a futuristic, dystopian society is evoked but there is a luddite sensibility conspiring beneath the glossy surface. No more is this more in evidence than on the chilling, ‘Ghost.’ “Come feel her,” Badwan whispers before a cold blast of synths propels you forward. No matter the five-finger discount in terms of musical influence, the Horrors hit the ground running. Best the listener can do is give chase. ‘Point of No Reply’ draws so deeply on classic Depeche Mode it’s criminal. It may be wrong, yet it feels so right.

Throughout, there’s a cinematic quality to the production. Chockful of special effects. No bell or whistle is left on the shelf. Yet the gimmicks never overwhelm the song or vocals. Despite its title, ‘Weighed Down’ is anything but. It’s one of V’s more dynamic numbers. A sonic roller coaster taking you up and down and around the bend. But never too fast. Always at an opiate pace that makes for a pleasant ride. “Don’t let love bring you down,” Badwan coos.

‘Gathering’ brings in some acoustic guitars along with the electronica noodling. Its V’s most conventional track. A possibly intentional nod to the kind of cloying ballad Scott Walker might have sung on the opening credits of some forgotten 60’s Art House film. ‘World Below’ might be the album’s weakest link, featuring many of the effects employed earlier on ‘Hologram’ but with none of its drive. As a melody, its touch cutesy, verging on insipid.  The stirring ‘Good Life’ soon tucks any misstep in its bed and might be V’s most anthemic moment.

Things draw to a close with ‘Something To Remember Me By,’ which brings us into unabashed New Order territory. Here they don’t quite pull off the heist. Rather than run with it, things feel more cliché and run of the mill, with none of the ambition of the other tracks.  As closers go, it’s a bit of a let-down. ‘Good Life’ would have been a much better note to end on, if you ask me. Despite that, there’s no denying it’s a catchy tune.

If Primary Colors and Skying are the Horrors at their most exemplary,V is a touch too slick for it's own good, but is a far more focused affair than Luminous. Like all their work, it wears it’s influences on its sleeve. The Horrors’ brand of genre hopping is nothing new. David Bowie established the trend in the 70’s. The fact that the Horrors mine bands who were cutting music over thirty years ago is a testament to the quality and longevity of that music. And if Faris Badwan lacks Bowie’s otherworldly charisma, at the very least he has remarkable taste and Bowie’s insatiable curiosity. While I don’t find V  to be quite the masterpiece some are hyping it as, it’s a damn good offering. I’m always up for where this band will go next.


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