Even though The Horrors have only been going for over 10 years, when you recall the state of the so-called indie-rock scene in 2007 it feels like a real survival story.
It’s also a tale of them evolving their sound over their five albums, thankfully without chasing too many indie trends.
2007 was a big year for albums by the Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, Klaxons, the Pigeon Detectives, Bloc Party, The Enemy, and a load of other detritus laying the foundation for the giant UK indie landfill site that was full up by the end of the decade.
The Horrors emerged in 2007 to general sniggers and cheap digs about style-over-substance — all back-combed hair, drainpipes and winklepickers, like they’d been watching too much of Russell Brand prancing round the Big Brother’s Little Brother studio. They even appeared in the Mighty Boosh, out-weirding Noel Fielding.
But aside from the snideness, their debut album Strange House got a grudging round of applause from most critics, for its ragged mix of punk, psychobilly, wiry synth-led psychedelia and Bad Seeds cartoon venom. Still, it felt like they’d go the way of another great big indie hope, the 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, and implode after two LPs.
By 2009 though, they’d fully ditched the Cramps’ B-movie shtick and the garage rock riffs, hired Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and opened up a vast highway of sonic space on their second album Primary Colours.
Primary Colours silenced the jibes and backhanded compliments – an experimental krautrock-inspired LP informed by the warm fuzz of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain, with serene synth lines straight from the Neu! playbook.
Third and fourth albums Skying and Luminous saw The Horrors continue on the psych/krautrock path, with frontman Faris Badwan’s original shrieks and detached howls rounding into new wave hooks.
When news emerged that Paul Epworth (U2, Adele) was drafted into produce their fifth album V, there was a hint they were clawing at the mainstream, recalling the time Bowie called up Nile Rodgers after Low, Heroes, Lodger and Scary Monsters begging for a hit record and was rewarded with Let’s Dance.
And while the Horrors have been a bit of a cult band for a decade, V is their first that sounds like a ‘hit’. You could stop the album at any random point and you’d only be a few seconds away from a colossal hook, from the Depeche Mode-meets Gary Numan industrial stomp of Hologram, to the 90s Bowie affectations on Press Enter to Exit, and the lush new wave synthpop of Something to Remember Me By.
But aside from the pop jolts, there aren’t any short cuts on V — the sound design has enough avant-garde electronics to keep your internal headphone monologue happy, while imagining the rush of the choruses live.
The Horrors have always got stick for being ‘record collector rock’ – showing off the cool bands they love – but LCD Soundsystem’s whole career is based on more brazen plundering, and they’re doing OK.
V is already a top 10 hit and one of the catchiest ‘indie’ albums of the year, and it won’t be going anywhere near the landfill dump for a while yet.