Flashback: The Horrors, Primary Colours (2009)

the horrors

It’s a symbol of the times that the first time I listened to The Horrors’ Primary Colours in full, it was via a free stream on NME.com. Now before everyone gets their panties in a bunch over mentioning that magazine, it was a blessing in disguise. I would plug in my headphones at work, hit repeat and listen to the record on a loop. A month later I bought the record, put it in my cd player and sat on my bed for at least three hours, the cd on repeat again. I didn’t want to hit stop or skip. I didn’t want it to end.

A year on and I still find Primary Colours to be as intensely exciting, emotionally exhaustive and thrillingly glorious as ever.

There was a collective intake of breath when Primary Colours hit the ears of The Horrors fans last year. Their debut record Strange House was a psychobilly montage of madness, an underrated glory really, that was marred by images of the gothically clanned five piece.

It was sad to witness the negativity directed at the Londoners who had managed to turn an old genre new. So it must have been particularly satisfying for them when they released their second album and essentially flipped the bird to nay-sayers.

Whatever happened to Faris Badwan between those two records, and whoever the mystery lady was who inflicted the pain, without it Primary Colours wouldn’t exist as it does. It’s the sound of a band beyond their years, dragging influences into new contexts, morose lyricism that manages to be confessional as well as aspirational.

I can’t fault this album. At all. Badwan is fierce, arrogant, violent and emotionally resilient in Three Decades while guitars whirl and trip around him in a veritable wall of sound. You can picture him, six feet tall, gangly and enraged, shouting ‘Don’t let your fear dictate your life.’ The album has infinite range in mood, swinging from the flooring depths of Scarlet Fields to the jangling semi-apology of Who Can Say. All the while Badwan broods, mopes and sings of the ‘feather white’ girl.

I could try to explain how listening to this album made me feel. That it managed to express a realm of emotion and connect with me in a way that few other records in the last couple of years have. The Horrors have perfected that precarious balance between lyrical liberty and sheer noise in this record. The hidden gem is I Only Think Of You; sparse strings, bone bare percussion and Badwan lamenting the person he couldn’t save.

I’m not denying that this record owes a lot to 80s noise and shoegaze heroes. But neither are the band. Frankly, there’s little music made at this point in time that isn’t borrowing, paying homage or referencing the past in some way. The difference between The Horrors and the abyss of copycat noisemakers is that they’ve taken disjointed elements and made them new. More than that, they proved everyone wrong in the process – a one trick pony they are not.

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