Okay, so in 2009 the freako-goth Horrors transcended their meager (though eminently enjoyable) trash-garage beginnings with Primary Colours, a gleaming cylinder of perpetual motion sound crafted with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow. Inevitable acclaim followed, and everyone wondered how they would follow up such a perfectly delivered statement of forward intent. Well, by sidestepping expectations again.
wm Barrow is absent this go around, replaced instead by Craig Silvey, and whereas Primary Colours took much inspiration from krautrock and Faith-era Cure, Skying goes all in with epic, synth-driven anthems in glorious hock to the likes of Ultravox, Echo and The Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs – lovelorn stuff perfect for soundtracking the worldshaking trauma of teenage breakups and first crushes. Tracks like “You Said” remind me of the gothic majesty of minimal wave pumped up on steroids and blasted onto the IMAX screen. Faris has the voice for it, forgoing his earlier baritone roar for a surging, fragile croon, and the rest of the band duly take their places behind all manner of shimmering synths and effects boxes – they’re to the man, intuitive students of sound (check out the backwards crest/crackle of guitar feedback pulsing through the verses of “I Can See Through You”). And because it’s the Horrors and I’m ALWAYS going to enjoy their music, I do find myself being content with most of Skying. But because it’s the Horrors who floored me with the perfection of Primary Colours, I have to note that Skying is somewhat of a creative misstep. I can’t help but feel that this is their grab for the brass ring, and as such, some of the album feels too big and overblown, veering into the (naffer) areas of the ’80s bravura that inspired them (U2, Simple Minds).
At worst, they’ve made a good M83 record. At best, they’re going to take the synth tricks they’ve learned here and merge them with the undead krautrockisms of Primary Colours for something truly revolutionary and mindblowing.