Review Summary: V for five? More like V for victory of the band to me.
2018 Reading and Leeds Performers Series: Episode II
When it comes to artists who constantly change their sound, mainstream listeners would immediately think of David Bowie
and Panic! At The Disco
(whom I previously reviewed in this series). However, I personally think that the British garage punk revival band The Horrors
also fits the bill as well. From the Ramones
punk-go-goth in their debut Strange House
to the shoegaze-meets-post-punk and new wave in the sophomore opus Primary Colours
to the psychedelic synth-punk in Skying
and the lush dance-rock Luminous
, it is needless to say that The Horrors made a career that is almost as mercuric as Bowie himself. This time, the Essex band returned to the moody territory of Primary Colours
, yet they remained the dance and psychedelic elements of the previous two relatively substandard records. The resulting album, V
, named after the Roman numeral for five (which is reasonable since this is their fifth full-length), is perhaps their best since the sophomore outing.
What makes this album stands out, is that they present weariness, stadium-sized hooks and weightlessness simultaneously in the songs. In fact, singer Faris Badwan’s vocals are at his weariest in this album(Badwan’s voice sounds quite clarified in some songs in Primary Colours
) , as in songs such as “Machine”, “Hologram”, “Press Enter To Exit” and even the upbeat highlight “Something To Remember Me By”, he sounds like a heavily weathered time traveler from the future, giving the album a murky, raw yet futuristic edge. However, what makes these jaggedness significant, is the contrasting, colourful production and big hooks. Thanks to co-producer Paul Epworth, who is known for producing for various musicians from Adele
, Coldplay to Thurston Moore
of Sonic Youth
, the song in V
are catchy as those from the previous two releases. However, The Horrors remained their dark, weary sound that recalls Strange House
and Primary Colours
, as the commanding industrial beats within songs such as the abyssal “Hologram” and the aggressive “Machine” were complemented by Badwan’s swamped vocals, with the latter perhaps is their harshest-sounding in years. Furthermore, the album also contains many nostalgic sound that paid homage to various music legends, from the Dog Man Star
(“It’s a Good Life”), New Order
(“Point of No Reply”) to Portishead
(“Ghost”) and even Pet Shop Boys
(“Something To Remember Me By”), yet they remained the futuristic direction, which is bolstered by the processed vocals, dark guitars and the futuristic synth-laden sound. As a result, all of these sonic features flourished this album as a multifaceted gem that contains murky monochromatic bleakness, kaleidoscopic joy, nostalgia and futurism simultaneously.
Another feature that makes this album shine brightly is that it boasts some deep and strong lyrics. In fact, the band provided many strikingly thought-provoking anthems without adhering to the typical pop anthem cliché, which captured the mood of the current state of the Trump administration. From the questionings of our existence our function in the society(“Your smile is nothing to live for /But read out your lines” from “Machine”), being stuck in our old perspective (“And when the answers only divide /When you never question the doubts in your mind” from “Something To Remember Me By”) to struggling to live in the politically chaotic state (“I, I've got no way of knowing how these days will run /I’ve got no way of trusting these dreams that grow out of my reach” from “World Below”) and facing betrayals from a cocky friend (“You know you take such pride in making people feel sick /Blood and lipstick, hiding yourself in a myth”, “I’m fighting the fire and you're fanning the flames /And there's nothing I can say” from “Point of No Reply”), The Horrors truly captured the uncertainty of this current time. What’s more, the disturbingly provoking lyrics were complemented by the generally murky tone and contrasted against the vibrant production of this album, further enhancing the compelling quality of this album.
The only weakness of the album is that it can be both too accessible and lack of focus at times. In fact, the album is a bit too reliant on the choruses, as I find songs such as “Hologram”, “Point of No Reply” and “Something To Remember Me By” hard to catch up until the chorus kicks in, which makes listeners put off for the Skying
-like hooks. In addition, filler tracks “Weighed Down” and “Gathering” contains some of the blandest hooks and the most confounding lyrics in the album, which further degrading the quality of this album, despite the fact that the latter contains an excellent infusion of acoustic guitars, and both tracks showcased both Badwan’s cleaner, unprocessed vocals.
To sum up, the accessibility may serve as the double-edged blade towards the quality of the album, and it suffered a couple of filler tracks, but the album still stands very strongly in terms of quality, courtesy of the beautifully multifaceted sound and thought-provoking lyrics. Not every experimentations succeeds when it comes to music, as some fans of The Horrors are not fond of the slicker direction in Skying
, while David Bowie himself also met with numerous missteps in his chameleonic music career, such as the mixed reactions to his now-classic Berlin trilogy and universal slating towards the wacky Tonight
and Never Let Me Down
. But like Bowie’s astounding art-pop famous last word Blackstar
, if the musicians got the sweet spot correctly in their experimentations, the result can be far more than just a pleasant surprise, and The Horrors succeeded it in V
, as the album became their most accomplished effort in years, and a beautiful gem 2017 offered us.
It’s a Good Life
Something To Remember Me By