“Primary Colours” (2009)
Album Review by MORGAN ROTH
The Horrors entered the scene of professionally-recorded music via the label Stolen Transmission in 2007 with Strange House. Though produced in part by the reputable Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist Nick Zinner, the result of the album proved to be what the 1962 novelty-song ‘Monster Mash’ might have developed into if Bobby Pickett had been introduced to the post-punk genre of music. Heavy on the synthesizer, and possessed by the spirit of Peter Murphy and the rest of the Bauhaus, but with cheesier lyrics, the band was received by many as a joke and others as a goth glamour band come decades too late.
With Primary Colours (2009), the second studio album by English rock band, The Horrors established themselves as professionals, and seeded the concept that they can, and very much intend to, be taken quite seriously, having developed a solid, artful album.
Primary Colours is sporadic in its sound, never picking a specific style, and gives the impression that the members are trying to figure out just what direction they want to take the band in. While the album serves as an apparent testing ground for the future direction of the band, it is in no way a sophomoric effort.
The Horrors first album, Strange House, is solidly garage gothic in style, but Primary Colours proves much more difficult to classify. There are elements of gothic glamour still, as well as psychedelic rock or even neo-psychedelia, and the consistent influence of post-punk. There is also a very obvious endeavor to delve into the subgenre of dream pop or shoegazing—genres characterized by intentional guitar feedback, bruised and hazy vocals, and general instrumental feedback. The Horrors maintain their ever present gothic-punk demeanor with Faris Badwan’s deep and brooding vocals, but the rest is clearly in an experiment stage of development. The feedback throughout the album gives the impression that the band is inexperienced, but listeners, fans, and critics alike knows otherwise, and—given that Primary Colours is a studio recording—a choice to be included. Utilizing feedback is very much intentional and stylistic and serves to give the album a sort of pensive and otherworldly vibe.
The nearly five-minute intro, Mirror’s Image, sets the general tone of the album—a ghostly, live-time evolution of what was once a simple gothic garage band into something more. The theme, if any one theme were to be pinpointed in the song list, would be of the romantic sort and this romance is clearly infused in the lyrics of the opening number.
The second song of the album is a strange auditory visit to a warped carousel of a song. Faris Badwan’s vocals are the least chaotic thing about it and serve to carry the listener through the ride with a heated energy. Though the album is far less angry than Strange House, and far more reflective on the notion of love and love lost, it maintains an undertone of the same angst-ridden antagonism. The aggression is still there, certainly, but it’s more focused. Primary Colours isn’t just about these fits of aggression, however. It also includes truly touching songs of remorse on both the topics of lost love and impending loneliness with ‘I Only Think of You’ and the ending song, ‘Sea within a Sea,’ respectfully.
The strongest song on the album is the masterpiece of loneliness and heartache crooned out mournfully by the lovesick Badwin, ‘I Only Think of You.’ The seven minutes of the song proves—in a sort of melancholy absurdity—to be both satisfying, and yet not nearly satisfying enough to listen to only once—(the potato chip of lonesome songs). Those in similar positions to the lyricist will no doubt find the song to be a sort of lovelorn anthem and play the song on repeat until time eventually heals their wounds.
Primary Colours is a complete change of pace from its predecessor, Strange House, but a welcome one. The Horrors have established themselves in the shoegaze genre and done so while maintaining their gothic and post-punk roots. Faris Badwan’s vocals are a pleasure to listen to in any of his bands and The Horrors is the example not the exception.
Primary Colours is a recommended listen to fans of The National, Bauhaus, Fugazi, and those interested in post-punk influenced shoegazing.