It’s dead easy to write off bands that come draped in NME hype (the worst kind) and release a debut album that is unapologetic in extremis. Then, sometimes, said band returns with a radically different second album, much humble pie is eaten, the album is lauded, its predecessor is given a second chance, and the axis of normality is reverted to.
But what comes next?
If your name is Faris Badwan, and you head up The Horrors, you go and make an album of dreamy girl group pop, with an opera singer called Rachel Zeffira who may or may not be your lover, which recalls Phil Spector records and the Shangri-Las.
Then, having done this, to stuffy critical acclaim, you go back to your day job, and ooze a song like “Still Life” out into the wild, in advance of releasing a third album, entitled Skying. The song exudes the casual, Sunday morning beauty of A Northern Soul-era Verve. Cautiously romantic synths are fired across a pool of backwards guitar. Badwan’s lyrics are all about patience, and biding one’s time; fittingly, the song takes time to unravel before we are treated to a gently euphoric chorus about “waking up and finding it”.
As a lot of people have noticed, elements of the instrumentation, and maybe even Badwan’s voice, are reminiscent of Simple Minds. I think that’s unkind: you wouldn’t catch the Scottish New Wavers teasing out their orchestral interests like The Horrors do in the second verse, wherein there are three brief flourishes of strings. They vanish immediately, to be replaced by lush but synthetic counterparts, which are later backed up by a faint trumpet fanfare. The song’s eventual fadeout is triumphant and at ease with itself—not something you could say about previous Horrors releases, which were foreboding and chilly even at their most blissed out.