Somehow, many people are still surprised and perhaps even slightly annoyed that they have to take The Horrors seriously now. Whether they never heard Primary Colours, or are simply still bitter about the ringing in their ear from the last time they heard Sheena Is a Parasite isn’t entirely clear.
Either way it’s still the case that you can’t review Skying without mentioning what a shock it is that this same band released Strange House only just over 4 years earlier. They say the first impression is the last impression, and this is probably several times as true when you turn up sounding like The Birthday Party and looking like rejects from a Tim Burton film.
This album is another stride away from that initial sound. Whilst showing some small similarities to their previous album, Skying is for the most part a far more contented affair. While Primary Colours had a strong sense of nostalgia and anxiety built into its sound, there is far less tension to be found on Skying and occasionally it actually sounds fairly cheerful.
As with Primary Colours, the sound is once again completely inimitable – with the band’s guitarist Joshua Hayward (already known for constructing his own guitar pedals) even building a special modular synthesiser to use on the record (used to especially great effect on Monica Gems), and the band in fact recording and producing the entire album themselves. This might be the inspiration behind the sound of a realisation of an absolute, soaring freedom running throughout the entire album, especially opening track Changing The Rain and the already popular Still Life.
Lyrically, Skying seems to follow on rather well from Primary Colours – an album that although often demonstrated negative feelings, also seemed to announce an intention to escape from such emotions. Skying appears to continue this journey, with Changing the Rain and I Can See Through You seeming to almost look down on Primary Colours from above, before the album moves forward and songs like Dive In and Still Life take us by the hand to see a brighter world than Strange House could ever have imagined. Oceans Burning briefly brings our feet back to solid ground with a haunting melancholia that wouldn’t feel too out of place on OK Computer or Dog Man Star. Having said that, although a fairly cheerful record by the standards we expect from this band, it retains that edge of gloom that seemingly permeates everything The Horrors have ever made.
Overall this is another example of how stunningly the Horrors adapt to whatever they feel like creating. This album feels more comfortable with itself than either of their previous works, despite a new cautiously positive tone that The Horrors perhaps aren’t used to working with, possibly carried over from Faris’s work with Rachel Zeffira as part of Cat’s Eyes. Potentially their best album to date, and a brutal nose-crunching punch in the face to anyone who still thought they were a joke.