V is an ambitious, adventurous, and positive new album from The Horrors, whose partnership with producer Paul Epworth is proving to be a formidable one
The Horrors? Remember them? They released ‘Still Life’ a few years ago. It was fun, but nothing too groundbreaking. This album is fun, and nothing too groundbreaking — there’s no Faris Badwan impersonating Stormzy. This time though, there’s a difference. The difference is that it’s really, really good. Seriously.
V is the fifth release by The Horrors, which gives the new album its name. What’s more, V is another major milestone for the band — it’s ten years since their first release, Strange House, in 2007.
V starts with a brash, magnificent electronic opening, akin to a medieval king returning home from a long-running war victorious to rapturous celebration. It’s clear to see that the band have taken some significant steps in terms of production: it’s a rich, adventurous sound that really appeals to the listener. Ambition has also been upped, too: as ‘Press Enter To Exit’ breaks down and slows up — which is on par to Kid A-era Radiohead — an explosion of synths washes over you. It’s not done cheaply. It serves a purpose in the album to keep the pace ticking on nicely, which is excellent throughout.
There are still touches of the old Horrors around, as well. ‘Machine’, the lead single released in June, is rawer than the opening tracks which are beautifully produced by Paul Epworth. What’s evident is that the partnership with Epworth is paying dividends for The Horrors. V is just as well produced as any other release, but it has an extra swagger that they lacked in previous albums. ‘Point Of No Reply’ is another good example of this new found swagger, as are ‘World Below’ and ‘Ghost’ — raw and on edge at times, thought-provoking at others.
This album isn’t perfect, though, as shown by ‘Gathering’. Obviously aware that synth-pop and shoe-gaze couldn’t furnish the whole album, the band try something new with an acoustic set up. That’s fine, but the problem is it feels like that the band were also aware an acoustic-only track on an album like this would very quickly be forgotten. That leads them to another dream-pop chorus. As a song, it’s perfectly competent and well-written, but in the context of the whole album, it doesn’t quite fit. It’s also important to remember that ‘Gathering’ is only a slight blemish on a terrific piece of work.
A special mention must go to the final two tracks of V — titled ‘It’s A Good Life’ and ‘Something To Remember Me By’. I implore you to listen to these two together, because the simplicity of ‘It’s A Good Life’ having just one chorus and one verse perfectly balances out the shoe-gaze and techno twist delivered in ‘Something To Remember Me By’. It’s not as if the twist is unexpected, with the build up to it being drawn out. The unexpected element is just how good it is. It might be the best closing song off any album in last ten years. Seriously.
Overall then, V is by far the finest Horrors album to date. It may lack the well-known single such as ‘Still Life’, or the following of other synth bands like The 1975 or Tame Impala, but it’s undeniable that the quality of production from Paul Epworth has made The Horrors more ambitious, more adventurous, and cleaner. No record is perfect, but this comes pretty damn close to being it, which is why it’s my favourite record of 2017 so far.