When The Horrors dropped Primary Colors two years ago, it was the very definition of a breakthrough success. It picked up a nomination for the Mercury Prize, and found its way onto many critics’ 2009 year-end lists, including our own. But if that album was a breakthrough, then Skying cements the band as a major force in modern music, and captures their unstoppable growth, too.
From the first mechanical gear of “Changing The Rain”, it’s apparent just how much better everything sounds. The textures are more varied, the guitar work is subtle, and the vocals are stronger. There are no “standard” tracks here. Every number attempts something at least a little differently, and succeeds for the most part.
Throughout, the synthesizer work of Tom Cowan is especially noteworthy, but every track has its unique breath of fresh air. “You Said” is full of abrasive, buzzing noise that slides into the background. “I Can See Through You” opens with a disco-meets-early-’90s synth that demands dance floor attention, until a downpour of heavy guitar insists on moshing, instead. “Endless Blue” contains a hazy, summer feel supplemented by a masked horn section.
Highlights abound here. First up is the single “Still Life”, complete with looped tape effects, a bell-shaped keyboard pattern, and a slamming drumbeat. Faris Badwan’s wavy wording in the verses, and the straightforward belting in the chorus just sticks to your brain. A couple tracks later, the eight-minute “Moving Further Away” arrives. Keyboard arpeggios bounce back and forth among shakers and drums, while the mid-section’s low-key guitar acts as a quasi-anti-solo. The notes and sounds spread out dramatically, letting the reverb and occasional silent gap transport the listener to the next part. Oh, and then there’s the battle of sound between iridescent synths and the caw of seagulls. Groovy.
The Horrors have always made their influences clear to see. When you hear a song like “Who Can Say”, you can tell which artist made an impact on their sound for that piece. With Skying, the band has moved on to their own distinct personality by simply evolving. Don’t believe us? Well, as Badwan says, “You’re never certain of anything/unless you go in.”