The Horrors are so categorically appealing, I half-expect this band to be some sort of anti-commercial, tickling my sensors into purchasing some consumer electronics or at least thinking it's about time for a new pair of sunglasses. "Mirror Images," the opening track on Primary Colours bristles with swooning guitars, whirling synths and semi-comprehensible declarations sneered in the requisite English accent. Our English readers may not be all that impressed but it still works wonders over here in The States. The second disc in recent memory that recalls the Chameleons (the other being Sun Gongs by the Veils), Primary Colours runs some of the same tracks as the Chameleons' finest work. They have an unabashedly anthemic way with their feelings, bellowed to the point that their message is obscured by their impact, which frankly is how rock lyrics should be unless they are really, really good. And they generally aren't. The sonic textures are the stars here.
"Who Can Say" is crunch and swoon ratcheted up to epic scale, spinning around you like ice skaters, while "Do You Remember" takes a more linear path, hang gliding off the ledge over the infinitude of the canyon. "New Ice Age" recalls the old one by Joy Division a little, and well, much of this record recalls old records. The thing that saves it is you get the feeling the Horrors are sincere in their mimicry; they sound young enough to not know better, still in the indie rock equivalent of their James Dean period. When the band first emerged, the members went by kitsch named like Spider Webb and Coffin Joe and adopted the right mix of frenzy and detachment and worked the hype machine into pop consciousness. Primary Colours reveals there was an actual band in there all along.
See "I Only Think of You," the moment halfway through the album when they break their Iditarod pace, for evidence of this band. The song unfurls over extended drones and a tambourine pulse, slowly building until the fireworks are ready at the end. While it's true most songs here, including this one, consist of one good idea stretched out over the frame of the song, "I Only Think of You" dares to be seven minutes long, giving plenty of time for development.
This new depth is mined further in the even-longer "Sea within a Sea" which opens with the most basic new wave skitter, vocals coming in from across the harbor on a fog. Like a sunny seaside village, the tone of those found there changes as that fog rolls in. It becomes menacing, more panicked as things get darker, and rejoices as it passes. "Sea within a Sea" is a whip-smart study on new wave dynamics, knowing when to crescendo and when to crash, when to build and when to tear asunder. It fades out like a setting sun, lingering for ages and yet is suddenly gone. It's as if the band has figured out how to do something fresh with their influences, which to these ears, is practically revolutionary.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com