Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: Primary Colours, the Best Record You Didn’t Give a Shit About Last Year

Douglas Martin would like to use this space to deny the rumors about him, Peaches Geldof, and Peaches. There were plenty of reasons to dislike The Horrors in the past. There was the Ultragrrl...
By    April 12, 2010

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Douglas Martin would like to use this space to deny the rumors about him, Peaches Geldof, and Peaches.

There were plenty of reasons to dislike The Horrors in the past. There was the Ultragrrl affiliation, frontman Faris Badwan’s relationship with Bob Geldof’s daughter, the post-adolescent mall-goth aesthetic (you know, the ones who have graduated to Express Men from Hot Topic) the stupid haircuts, the wholly uninteresting shock-punk debut record, take your pick. So when a magazine like Nylon Guys puts them on the cover of their July 2009 issue and asked if they were the best band in the world with nary an ironic smirk, you can’t help but flip to the page where Twilight’s Ashley Greene is wearing a plaid shirt and a garter.

But then, the band took a wrong turn on their way to NME’s Flash in the Pan list. Despite being dropped from their cushy major-label contract, they enlisted Portishead genius Geoff Barrow to produce Primary Colours, their sophomore effort. The record gained its fair share of fans, including such luminaries as Jason Pierce and Kevin Shields. Last year around this time, it seemed as though The Horrors were poised to cross the pond and silence as many doubters as they did in their home of England. The thing is, the takeover never happened, which is unfortunate, because Primary Colours packs more musical ingenuity in its 45 minutes than a lot of bands of their ilk can produce in an entire career.

Opening with peaceful minute-or-so of airy ambient drones, “Mirror’s Image” quickly changes pace with a driving bassline and the smeary, distorted guitar work the aforementioned Pierce and Shields are well-known. Badwan has a much more confrontational voice than either of those men, however, as he spends a lot of his time on the record yelping and barking at the microphone in a very distinctive British baritone. Now, melding shoegaze with punk is no new feat whatsoever, but few bands in recent memory have recorded songs like “Three Decades,” which literally sounds like a runaway train about to hop off of the rails on a bridge.

Barrow is a master of minor details, ensuring Badwan’s voice is front-and-center on songs like the dark and violent “New Ice Age”, but washes it in reverb when Badwan croons on songs like “Scarlet Fields” and first-single “Sea Within a Sea”. And let’s not forget the guitars, which drone, bleat, and scream exactly when they need to, sometimes covering things up for Badwan, who is a few college-level Creative Writing courses away from being a compelling lyricist. You hardly need to pay attention to the well-worn lyrical themes in “I Only Think of You” when those two chords are being filtered through a reverse looping pedal, or when Badwan unconvincingly tries to pull off the “Sensitive Asshole” lead character in the otherwise-thrilling “Who Can Say”. If you describe yourself as a “lyrics person” when it comes to music, it’s safe to say that Primary Colours won’t have you scrambling to the thesaurus or Wikipedia for reference. However, if you are thrilled by the idea of creative sonic exploration or need a new “headphones” record for when you’re riding the train to work, take a listen or two at this record you ignored last year. Few records in history will ever be as good as Loveless, but this is the closest any band over the last few years has gotten.

Download:
MP3: The Horrors – “Who Can Say”
MP3: The Horrors – “Sea With a Sea” (Left-Click)

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