It’s always been easy to naysay the Horrors. All it took was a quick look: the origins as a flavor-of-the-week London garage band, the debut album that showed just enough promise to stir up some hype but not enough to indicate that the hype would be satisfied, the gothy-looking band members who dressed like they had just lost out to Johnny Depp for the role of Edward Scissorhands. These were all red flags that the band could fizzle out after a short stint in the limelight. But then there was Primary Colours, a sophomore effort that proved suspicion wasn’t the right way to look at it. The record added spooky synths and a dab of maturity to the band’s sound, giving reason to believe that the Horrors might just be here to stay. And now, two years later, comes Skying, the group’s third and most accessible record to date.
In some ways, the new album sustains the upward trajectory that the last one established. The group’s sound continues to morph, trading most of the remaining signs of its garage-rock origins for a borderline Brit-pop feel, with synths turned all the way to 11. Probably the biggest statement of the band members’ growing maturity is that, having taken their former producer’s advice to go it alone while recording their next release, they’ve decided to self-produce Skying in an East London studio that they built themselves.
Hearing the final product, it’s clear that the process must’ve freed the group up to experiment with some fun new sounds, which are heard all throughout Skying. There’s a beefed up percussion section, with shakers and tambourines thrown in alongside the drumkit, and those periodically surfacing horn arrangements are definitely a welcome addition, but the coolest new gadget in the Horrors’ arsenal has to be the guitar-controlled synth that guitarist Joshua Hayward built for himself (hear it on “Monica Gems”).
Skying is swimming with interesting sounds, but it falls a tad short in the songwriting department. It’s not that the record has any glaring flaws. It doesn’t (except for maybe “I Can See Through You”), but neither does it have many standout highs. “Changing The Rain” and “Dive In” both have great melodies on their choruses, and slow-grooving stadium anthem “Still Life” hits all of the marks with its driving bass and powerful, floating chorus; but elsewhere on the album, you won’t find much that will stick in your head after a complete listen. On Skying, the group has definitely matured, jettisoning much of the divisiveness that marked its brash origins, but it feels like some of the edginess that first made the Horrors notable might’ve been discarded with it.