Music Reviews
Primary Colours

The Horrors Primary Colours

(XL Recordings) Rating - 10/10

The decade is ending and Lux Interior has passed on.  The surplus of Nuggets-imitations and Joy Division wannabes are being phased out by a league of lo-fi noise-poppers whose two-minute melodies cater to our ever decreasing and less than challenged attention spans.  It’s a somewhat welcoming shift, as I figured the post-punk revival was over.  But, I was wrong.

Oftentimes it seems generations find themselves buried underneath a mass of disillusionment and complacency once the clock ticks to the end and the optimism of the era takes its last wide-eyed glance before growing drowsy and checking out till things get interesting again.  As Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear vie for this year’s top of the music heap, indie music feels depressingly stifled and constrained, relevant only to its demographic and incapable of capturing an outsider’s attention.  It’s a genre that’s always radiated a certain degree of elitism, as it’s not meant for mass consumption.  But, I believe its original intent was to inspire belief in what WASN’T the spoon-fed or easily bought trend of the week, introducing possibilities to people that were used to the same tired and uninspiring “new” thing. I don't believe indie music suffers from diminished quality, but it doesn't seem to possess a whole lot of imagination anymore.  A lot of it, to be honest, sounds the same.

All I’ve wanted to do these days is drown myself in an abundance of Mission Of Burma, a peaceable and therapeutic way to pass the time until an album worth its weight in hype comes along.  And, as Primary Colours recalls the seminal yesteryears of post-punk and new wave with a restorative purpose, I realize that the past hasn’t sounded this new in a long time.  The tail end of the decade is upon us, and British goth-rockers The Horrors create an album to remember it by.

Having only two years before been seen as a competent novelty act, their approach a somewhat obvious homage to the loud horror theatrics of Bauhaus and The Cramps, The Horrors have modified themselves into a neo-psychedelic art rock band designed for reconsideration.  Aided by producers Geoff Barrow (Portishead), Craig Silvey and twisted video visionary Chris Cunningham, Primary Colours is a grand gesture of palatable and reverent consequence, ghostly as opposed to spooky.  It’s also easy to dissect, as it is the product of a quintet of vinyl junkies with something to prove.  

Listening to 2007’s Strange House, an album whose harsh and purple velvet overtones jaggedly announce the band’s intentions to “creep” and “haunt” in a somewhat campy and theatrical manner, their leap to something like Primary Colours sort of mirrors Wire’s transition from Chairs Missing to 154, with dark and ominous tonality emerging from what was once understood to be.  As the gentle ambiance of Mirror’s Image coaxes you into a mild daze, the drums kick up a rapid pulse before waves of undulating vapor trail around the band’s solid rhythm.  That pretty much keeps up for the album’s duration as The Horrors continually position Love Will Tear Us Apart and How Soon Is Now in an enthusiastic and ethereal embrace.  And, maybe that’s not a winning endorsement, but when you hear something as lush as Do You Remember or Scarlet Fields you realize that it’s not such a bad combo.   

Vocalist Faris Badwan plays less to the Peter Murphy archetype with this album, Who Can Say (its spoken midway lifted from the song She Cried by Jay & The Americans) being a breakup track and I Only Think Of You a slow and dissonant ballad resembling Stephin Merritt as he attempts to put his own stamp on Venus In Furs, crooned passion that glides on winding walls of sonic breeze and tambourine.

Three Decades and New Ice Age basically gleam as if brandished, their underlying fields of current blazing as Badwan shouts like a less sniveling Johnny Lydon.

I Can’t Control Myself is the album’s most pronounced and direct rock song, a dirty riff powering the rhythm and giving sonic disarray somewhat of a rest before becoming a tired and predictable device.  The title track has the urgency of the Psychedelic Furs, fast and upbeat, leading into Sea Within A Sea, which closes the album out with synthesized dance pulsations and a final blast of rock noise and atonal string play.

Though definitely more of an ode to rock’s past than its present, Primary Colours reflects the necessity for inspiration.  After having been unceremoniously dropped from Loog Records and then been dangerously close to something of a dead end, The Horrors instead set out to redefine the band and its purpose, their second album an exciting result.  While Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear duke it out for the best of ’09, I’m rooting for The Horrors, my expectations largely optimistic that outside ears will glady receive what this band has created.