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 Everett True

The Horrors – Skying (XL)

The Horrors – Skying (XL)
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The Horrors. Another band that’s passed me by.

Before we start this review, I think it’d be worth our while to talk about a certain form of prevalent shorthand. If rock critics reference any of the following bands – Echo & The Bunnymen, The Chameleons, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Simple Minds (doesn’t matter which era), Psychedelic Furs, Can – then what they really mean is THIS BAND SOUND LIKE U2 BUT WE’D RATHER NOT SAY SO BECAUSE THAT WOULD PUT US ON THE SAME LEVEL AS YOU, OUR READER. So, when music writers talk about ‘Changing The Rain’ (the opening track on the third Horrors album) sounding a little ‘baggy’ (a description for a genre that was invented as a joke at Melody Maker back in the early Nineties … same way ‘grunge’ was), a bit like The Stone Roses or psychedelic or vaguely Britpop indie-dance, what they really mean is THIS BAND SOUND LIKE U2. Only a little more bland.

And when critics reference dreary early Eighties synth-popsters Tears For Fears as a means of describing the overplayed, amorphous, singularly dull = dull = dull wash of sounds and ‘baggy’ beats that swamp second track ‘You Said’, what they really mean is THIS BAND SOUND LIKE U2. Only without any personality (however irritating).

Did The Horrors always sound like this, or are they yet more changelings in the style of Kings Of Leon and (ha) U2? I have no real way of knowing – and I sure as fuck am not going to go back and waste my time to listening to previous albums when the singer sounds so anonymous – but reports creeping in mention ‘goth’ and ‘art-rock’ and ‘the Sixties’ like these are terms of abuse or genres, not abstract notations. When critics refer to the third track ‘I Can See Through You’ as the ‘break-out song’, they probably know what they’re talking about, and yes the keyboard-line does sound similar to that on Pulp’s ‘O.U.’ single (thanks, The Quietus) – but what they really mean is that THIS SONG SOUNDS LIKE U2, WITH A KEYBOARD-LINE STOLEN FROM PULP.

The fourth track, ‘Endless Blue’ is Chapterhouse bad. Let’s not say any more about it.

It seems that even when critics refer to such abstract concepts as Krautrock (specifically Can), what they really mean is THIS BAND SOUNDS LIKE U2. That’s odd. I’d never heard the connection before. Fifth track ‘Dive In’ is like Coldplay when Coldplay sounded like Ride, a little. Andy Bell of Ride now writes songs for arch-revivalists Beady Eye, Coldplay are a bunch of mediocre shits who give mediocrity a bad rep, and The Horrors’ third album makes the most recent Kings Of Leon long-player feel like it’s got some kind of integrity. According to The Independent‘s Andy Gill, ‘Dive In’ boasts “an itchy rhythm groove reminiscent of something Mani and Reni might have cooked up for The Stone Roses”. Yeah, right. This track has also been compared to The Avalanches. I know not of these Avalanches that my colleagues speak of – preferring instead to listen to music that doesn’t make me want to bang my head on a rusty nail until all semblance of sentient life has gone – but, on this showing THEY SOUND LIKE U2.

Sixth track ‘Still Life’ steals from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s debut album for three seconds before lapsing into unforgivably Echo & The Bunnymen territory. I MEAN U2. This is the music that the word “dour” might have been specifically invented for. I can only imagine The Horrors’ fan-base has actually only heard three other records … AND TWO OF THOSE ARE BY U2.

And the other one is by The Stone Roses. (They clearly haven’t heard Simple Minds’ Empires And Dance; if they had then presumably The Horrors would’ve chosen another album to directly replicate.) (Simple Minds always having SOUNDED LIKE U2.)

Seventh track ‘Wild Eyed’ is layered with the sort of synths we once busted The Blue Nile’s ass for using. The voice sounds like … let’s not beat around the bush here, shall we? SOMONE IMITATING BONO FROM U2.

Eighth track ‘Moving Further Away’ also steals from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – this time for 32 seconds, before the horrible jaunty kick-drum bursts through – and sounds like a group listening to The Stone Roses listening to Oasis listening to U2 (WHAT DID YOU EXPECT) for the first time, and coming over all excited at the newness of such an approach. You could separate the keyboard-line and say it sounds like something Kraftwerk might have used. You could. If you were a stupid cunt and entirely missed the point of writing about music. This track is Swervedriver bad. And it’s really long, as well.

‘Monica Gems’ rocks, the way Suede once rocked. Heh, heh.

I couldn’t face listening to the final track, ‘Oceans Burning’.

35 Responses to The Horrors – Skying (XL)

  1. Neil Walker July 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    ‘Oceans Burning’ is the best track! It sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen!

  2. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    ‘Oceans Burning’ is the best track! It sounds like Echo & The Bunnymen!

    … in other words, U2.

  3. Joseph Kyle July 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    this review reminds me of those classic reviews of yore…in other words, A REVIEW OF U2

  4. Retch July 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Nothing on this album sounds like U2. Saying a band sounds like U2 is just a lazy way of insulting them.

  5. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Saying a band sounds like U2 is just a lazy way of insulting them.

    Lazy music deserves lazy criticism.

  6. simon July 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    u2 had some jams.
    whats yer beef with The Avalanches

  7. Joseph Kyle July 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Point of order, Everett!

    Here is the only exception where THIS SOUNDS LIKE U2 is a good thing:

  8. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    whats yer beef with The Avalanches

    I have no ‘beef’ with The Avalanches. I know not of them. It is my colleagues who are dragging their name through the dirt by using them as a comparison point for The Horrors’ third album. But they have also compared The Horrors’ third album to Can, Psychedelic Furs, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and Pulp – and I like all those bands. Hence my initial point that these bands are being used as some form of critical shorthand. (No one wants to use a U2 comparison if they’re praising a band – even less so, Coldplay – because even the most cloth-eared of critics realise that U2 really aren’t held in high regard.)

  9. T.L.B. July 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Great review, so many people think Horrors are better now, can’t understand it. I think I must be the only person who prefers the first album. That was actually OK – comedy frantic goth version of 60s Pebbles/Nuggets stuff, cover of ‘Jack The Ripper’ by Screaming Lord Sutch. It was a bit fake but at least it was interesting and different. They seemed to be genuinely into the music, did their own fanzine and club night. Second album and they suddenly turned into The Stepford Wives for Telegraph rock critics. If Chris Cunninhgham is still doing their videos I would be very fucking surprised.

  10. Lewis Parker July 14, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Here’s a Sixties song that it’s not lazy to compare their new sound to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdOl2yXNFOg&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=AVGxdCwVVULXeph9-Uj7crnK53L34GND_w

    They still run a club night, it’s called Cave Club — every third Saturday of the month at the Buffalo Bar in Highbury. Dress like an undertaker and get your groove on.

  11. Muzz July 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Second album and they suddenly turned into The Stepford Wives for Telegraph rock critics. – CLASSIC!!!

  12. simon July 14, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I have no ‘beef’ with The Avalanches. I know not of them. It is my colleagues who are dragging their name through the dirt by using them as a comparison point for The Horrors’ third album.

    Fair enough, you said as much in the post, but then you wrote that you prefer ‘to listen to music that doesn’t make me want to bang my head on a rusty nail until all semblance of sentient life has gone’.

    I agree that the sort of critical shorthand referenced all over your post is lazy, but the sentence I quoted seems to also be somewhat lazy? And rather overdramatic as a way to dismiss something while admitting to not listening to it. Unless I misunderstood what you meant in that paragraph.

    Anyway, my main reason for commenting is to point out that U2 have some jams.

  13. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    The Avalanches were damned by association in my mind as I typed the sentence, but it doesn’t mean they will always remain so.

    U2 would be OK, possibly, with a different singer. And guitarist. And bass-player. And drummer.

  14. Jonathan July 14, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    i’m crying a little for swervedriver. i’ve only heard their “raise”-album, but i’ve always liked it quite a lot. has it seriously gone downwards from there, or is my judgement already off on the first one?

  15. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    A different sound. And image.

    … and some songs.

  16. Everett True July 14, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    or is my judgement already off on the first one?

    Dude, your judgment is your own.

  17. Jonathan July 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    apparently, was more of a question about the history of that album’s critical reception. then again, your opinion, ET, might not be the most representative anyway. which i appreciate.

  18. Princess Stomper July 14, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Chapterhouse were very nice boys, and I always had a soft spot for Swervedriver.

    The biggest problem with saying that a band sounds like Echo and the Bunnymen, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Can, Pulp or Tears for Fears when really they sound like U2 is that none of those bands sound even a tiny bit like U2.

    To be fair, U2 wrote one or two good tunes, but I’d still quite like to punch Bono in the face. Then again, I’d like to do the same to Coldplay, who are irredeemably awful.

  19. sleevie nicks July 14, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    the horrors are the biggest non-connecting hi-five ever. the sound of one hand tugging.

  20. Mark Donaldson July 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    True- just linked to this from twitter. If you don’t give a crap why do they deserve Board space? Not that I’m suggesting you don’t ‘don’t give a crap’, I know you do ‘don’t give a crap’, but wondering why you were compelled to mention them?

    You have effectively generated more traffic for an album you have no time for (but have time to lambast). I think I might even download it and have a listen myself. The glowing promotional interview I read in The West Australian’s ‘alternative lift-out magazine’ The Wire provided me with no such inspiration.

    Or am I missing the point? Is this more a case of- “I’m going to make sure every fucker who listens to this God-damn awful album now is going to think of what that ‘Pommy prick Everett True’ said about it”?

    A case of- “Those inner-city lowlives aren’t going to feel so hip when they realise their album of the month really does remind them of Paul Hewson and his mate David Evans”?

    Skying is a stupid name for an album. As irritating a title as Clint Eastwood’s Changeling.

  21. TheLastHeretic July 15, 2011 at 2:56 am

    They all sound like U2 really. Except U2 of course.

  22. Chris Rice July 15, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Great review! I profoundly disagree with much of it, but kinda found myself wishing I agreed while I was reading it…

    Mark Donaldson – I’m sorry, I have to ask, why is Changeling an annoying title?

  23. Roger Nelson July 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Alas and alack.Lazy journalism breeds lazy criticism breeds lazy bands. When we in Blighty had an extensive music press there were some journalists you could trust with their reviews. Now its all corporate hype. And bribery. And fear of being the odd one out. I’ve not heard The Horrors new opus. I have yet to see a bad review (apart from this). I may listen to it, I may not. When I do I will make my own mind up. I remember well a friend of mine reviewing an album and slating it, it was published, what he didn’t know was that the editor was on a jaunt with the band in the States a week before. So, they got a front page, a centre spread and a poor review. He lost his job. As it happens, I trust his judgment, yet still bought, and enjoyed the album. When it comes down to it, surely its down to personal taste?

  24. Neil Kulkarni July 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    It’s often said in this 140-character frozen-fishfinger age that there’s no need for record reviews as we can personally check music out ourselves, now that the ‘secret’ prior-knowledge of pop-writers has been destroyed by so many leaks and links and youtube previews. However, as a congenitally lazy person who’d frankly rather have his opinions made for him, I love reviews like this as they save me from the tedium and slight-depression I KNOW actually hearing the Horrors would engender. Cheers ET for both saving me the bother, and also make me chuckle into my morning tea x

  25. Tiffany July 19, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Here, here! I find it difficult to like any album that relies heavily on a genre that’s been tried and tested (especially one that was tried and tested over four decades ago and has been repeatedly plundered since then). Whether it sounds like U2 or not, this is still a regurgitation of other, better bands.

  26. RobW July 19, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    It’s a fucking boring gash album, and i’m relieved that one critic at least has seen the truth. The gushing praise for this rubbish has made me rather sick.

  27. Louis Cypher July 21, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Ok,this will hurt.
    1.There’s no way that this album will have the same effect to someone on his mid-fifties which spends most of his time dealing with baby poo and planning his gardening schedule as it will have with someone on his 20s drenched in booze and sex….context is everything.

    2. the influences/comparison game is a dead end…did anybody ever stop listening to Nirvana because it sounded a bit like Pixes, Husker Du, Zola Jesus because she sounded a bit too much like Siouxsie etc?….Godard via Jim Jarmusch on you: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

    3.they really don’t sound like U2. I understand you trying to be funny and mildly offensive here – but then you should have tried Spandau Ballet – this sound like Psychedelic Furs, Inspiral Carpets and 808 State not fucking U2…and since we’re here – kids these days know about Can, Neu etc…they probably didn’t know about it in the 80-90s but know we have the Interwebs….

    4. I understand not going with the flow and I really think that your Odd Future review is a masterpiece as it is the Pitchfork comment – but the horrors are a decent band…so why not direct your wage to the ones that actually deserve: the pains of being pure at heart, mumford and sons and a lot of other ridiculous bands out there…..

    5. please, please –I love you Mr. True – but receiving 749 twitter teases a day on the same article is a bit too much. Please check @jetfury…for twitter’s gold standard….

    Again. ‘if you’re never wrong, you’re never interesting….’ and at the end this probably generated a lot of traffic….so congrats…

  28. Everett True July 21, 2011 at 8:29 am

    @Louis, I can hardly take issues with either your first or second points, having made precisely the same points myself countless times on this site, and elsewhere. However, I find myself unable to take the rest of your argument seriously as you are CLEARLY A CLOSET U2 FAN.

    P.S. We couldn’t give a crap about traffic. We’d have generated a whole lot more if we’d kept our mouths shut and gone for that all-important Horrors interview, don’t you think?

  29. Tom Randall July 21, 2011 at 11:12 am

    +1 to Sleevie’s burn.

  30. Mark Donaldson July 27, 2011 at 12:02 am

    I’ve taken so long to respond to Chris Rice that these words are most likely redundant by now. But he asked the question and who would I be not to answer it?

    At the risk of going totally off the topic of this Horrors album (which I still haven’t listened to), I’ll try my best to relate this answer back to why I think Skying is a stupid title. Mr Rice asked:

    “Why is Changeling an annoying title?”

    (Allow me to pre-apologise for the upcoming douchey England reference- “hey look how cultured I am, I went to London once”.)

    It has been annoying me ever since I saw the posters blazoned through the London tube in 2008. And I was dumber then than I am now, but my opinion remains the same three years on. The Clint Eastwood team could surely have come up with something better.

    There’s a certain laziness about Changeling and the same goes for Skying. A certain ‘art-school-undergraduate’ feel to it. A cliched soft minimalism. If you’re going to be minimal, at least make a statement I say. Look at Eastwood’s other recent titles- Gran Torino, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby; all boldly basic banners.

    Putting the deeper meaning of ‘changeling’ aside, on a purely superficial level- to read, to say, it doesn’t feel convincing. When you see a thick-white Skying branded on to an ‘iPhone hipstamatic’ background, it surely indicates The Horrors have tried too hard this time. Looking at the word amongst their other titles, Strange House, Primary Colours – and let me reiterate I have not listened to this band before- I think The Horrors have pulled a Changeling with Skying.

    As it happens, after writing my original post, I found the News Ltd papers’ Horrors review (Google it) by Mikey Cahill to open with- “ENGLISH changelings The Horrors”… you can’t make this shit up.

  31. Mark Donaldson July 27, 2011 at 12:42 am

    and reading back through Everett True’s Horrors spiel, I just noticed ‘changeling’ is also used. Obviously the term for them at this point in their career.

  32. Rob Cotter November 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Louis Cypher says:

    this sound like … Inspiral Carpets

    Dude, I thought you were defending this band?!

  33. Sean Tracey November 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Never understood the critics praise for this band, very poor post punk sound-a-like band.

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