Nearly Perfect Albums – #47

Primary Colours – The Horrors

Sea Within a Sea – The Horrors (2009, XL Recordings)

The Horrors very nearly blew it.

Some of it wasn’t their fault.  The NME (who else?) for instance stuck them on the cover before they had even recorded a single note of music, which automatically made people hate them.  However, they didn’t help themselves when they did release some music. Their first album, 2007’s ‘Strange House’ was an under produced homage to sixties American garage rock if played by privileged teenagers who listed to way too many Cramps records.  Then there was their look, black clothes, mascara, expensive looking leather jackets, big hair.  It was like the Psychedelic Furs had been shoved in a Delorean and transported to 2007. 

However, in 2009 the Horrors returned with ‘Sea Within a Sea’, an eight minute blast of Krautrock brilliance that revealed a band that had totally transformed and whilst I am on it, the way that this song builds into its euphoric climax is dizzyingly fantastic.  Gone was the garage rock sound that seemed obsessed with gothic rock, gone was the shrieking vocals and in from nowhere seemingly was a psychedelic sound that revealed a band who had suddenly discovered Spacemen 3, My Bloody Valentine and at least one Can record.  It was unexpectedly superb and they had ditched some of the black clothing too.

A few months later ‘Primary Colours’ landed and it was again superb but this time, thanks to ‘Sea Within a Sea’ it was entirely expected.  It is full of guitars that swoon, organs that swirl, vocals that croon, drums that crash.  There is barely a bad moment, barely a note out of place, it is awesome, and it is only when you’ve stopped pinching yourself that this is the same band who once recorded a song called ‘Sheena is a Parasite’, that came along with a video where a woman gave birth to a squid, can you appreciate the fact that it is genuinely an excellent album.

The influences are vast and expansive.  ‘I Only Think of You’ sounds like, what I expect at least, the Velvet Underground would have sounded like if they hung out in the sun of Santa Monica rather than gloom of a New York winter.  It is a wonderful hazy track, with a gorgeous vocal from Faris Badwan who almost chokes out every bitter word as he mourns the end of some love affair.

I Only Think of You – The Horrors (2009, XL Recording)

‘Who Can Say’ allows the band to experiment with sixties pop.  It has a remarkable hook running through it and a pulsating bass that literally vibrates throughout it.  The wonderful thing about ‘Who Can Say’ is the way that after the chorus slows down, the track fully apes sixties girl groups with a spoken word breakdown “When I told her I didn’t love her anymore, she cried” Faris tells us and then that riff rockets back in.  It’s marvellous.

Who Can Say – The Horrors (2009, XL Recording)

‘I Can’t Control Myself’ sees the band nudging back into their garage rock past.  Although its more Iggy and the Stooges rather than the Sonics (although to be honest sounding like the Sonics is no bad thing at all) but unlike the first album, it is far more polished. 

I Can’t Control Myself – The Horrors (20009, XL Recording)

Even when its ridiculous, on ‘New Ice Age’ for instance, where Faris opens the song by shrieking ‘THE AGONY!!’, ‘Primary Colours’ is still an extraordinary and thrilling album that should comfortably grace anyone’s collection.  One that saw a band that arrived in a hailstorm of hype deliver the sort of record that no one expected them to deliver at all.

New Ice Age – The Horrors (2009, XL Recording)

Goth! Show Me Magic – #3 Number 10 – 6

10. Sea Within A Sea – The Horrors (2009, XL Records, Taken from ‘Primary Colours’)

Now.  It is not my place to ever doubt the wisdom, brilliance, eccentricity or general stupidity of the Musical Jury, but MJ#7, ‘Sea Within A Sea’ is definitely not a Goth song.  What it is, is seven and half minutes of Krautrock marvellousness.  If you had chosen anything, literally anything from their Birthday Party tribute album that masquerades as the bands debut (2007’s ‘Strange House’) then I would have warmly shaken you by the hand and shouted “YES, exactly this”.  But no….

You see the Horrors, should have been at the forefront of a new Goth scene at the start of the last decade.  They had the name, they had the black clothes, they had way too many Bauhaus records and they even had a band member called Spider. Luckily for us, they started to hang around with Geoff Barrow and made ‘Primary Colours’ instead.

Talking of Birthday Party Records.

9. Release the Bats – The Birthday Party (1982, 4AD Records, Taken from ‘Junkyard’)

8. Mercy Seat – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1988, Mute Records, Taken from the single of the same name)

Sir Nicholas Cave is the only artist who features on this countdown twice (although come to think of Wayne Hussey, might – I’ll have to check).  Cave is for some the lord high duke of Goth, with his black hair, albums about murder and this frankly bonkers five minutes of screeching and wailing. 


You know what, ‘Release the Bats’ just seems too sexy to be a Goth record, this is a record that almost drags you to bed whilst holding a tub of fromage frais.  Everything about it is sexy, the bass is sexy, the drums are sexy in the way that they stutter and stomp, the guitars are sexy in the way that they stab and prod and of course, Nick Cave pretending to be James Brown can only ever be described as being extra specially sexy and folks, Goth is not supposed to be sexy.

‘The Mercy Seat’ on the other hand almost certainly is gothic in its nature.  I mean it’s about a man sitting on death row about to die quoting the Bible and simmering in his own brooding intensity.   Its still too sexy to actually be Goth though.

7. Incubus Succubus – Xmal Deutschland (1982, Zickzack Records, Taken from ‘Incubus Succubus’)

Over to Hamburg now (noticed how few of the Goth Top 20 are American) and a bit of Xmal Deutschland who in the early eighties gained a little bit of success.  They are something of an enigma in the Goth world in that they are an all female band (when they first started at least, a chap name Pete joined the band in 1984 and before him one called Wolfgang arrived in about 1983).  Singer Anja Huwe was quickly marketed by record executives as a ‘German Siouxsie Sioux.

6. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult (1985, Beggars Banquet, Taken from ‘Love’)

The Cult were another Yorkshire band, although this lot were from Bradford, and for a while they were one of more successful bands lumped into the Goth market.  Out of all of the records that my brother gave me when he abandoned Goth, the second album by post punkers, The Cult was the one that got played the most.  In fact, pretty much the only track that ever got played on that album was ‘She Sells Sanctuary’.  I couldn’t tell you a single other track on it.

Counting Up From Two – #2 – Three

Three Friends – The Levellers (1990, China Records, Taken from ‘A Weapon Called the Word’)

My dad told me a few years ago that I had my first birthday party aged three.  I was so excited about having all my playgroup friends around that in the space of seven minutes I wet myself and was sick all over my new jumper.  My new jumper was blue and was hand knitted by my nan and it had two feet in pink on the front, so it looked like someone had walked over my jumper and then puked on their own feet.

I don’t remember this party.  According to my dad I had three friends over, two boys and a girl and we played with my new train set until I was sick and then the parents scooped up their little ones and went home.  Six months later, aged three and a half I tripped over that train set in a rush to get a Matchbox mini car out from under the cupboard and fractured my fibia as I landed in heap on the cold linoleum floor. 

Three Decades – The Horrors (2008, XL Records, Taken from ‘Primary Colours’)

I was woken up at two thirty AM on my thirtieth birthday by some people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ really loudly.  Sadly I didn’t know any of them, and they were not singing it to me as they were singing it in Flemish.  This was because I was in Brussels and the hotel we were staying overlooked a square which for some reason had about 30 drunk people dancing around a fountain singing well wishes to an unknown person.  My wife turned in bed over looked at the clock, realised that I had just turned thirty and sleepily said “What they said” and fell back to asleep.  I eventually fell back to sleep again and then woke up and promptly went (temporarily) deaf in my right ear.  Old age had apparently arrived.    

For a slap up birthday meal we had a takeaway pizza from ‘Toni’s Pizzeria ‘and cherry beer purchased from tiny off licence in an area of Brussels called Louise.  The pizza remains to this day one of the greatest takeaways pizzas I have ever had.   The following day we were stopped from going within one hundred feet of some government building that we wanted to look around because Tony Blair was visiting so we sat in a coffee shop on Luxembourg Square and ate cake instead.

#3 – Aphex Twin (1994, Warp Records, Taken from ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol 2’)

My daughters third birthday was spoilt by a giant spider.  It wasn’t real but it was a massive plastic one hung from the ceiling of the tiny café that is tacked ono the tram station at Colyton, East Devon.  It was part of their decorations for their forthcoming ‘Ghostly Tram Ride’ that tram company were running in about two weeks (my daughters birthday being in Mid October).  She took one bite of her ‘Special Birthday Sandwich’ looked up saw the giant spider, and as she was already shaky from the skull with its eyes hanging out (they were painted marbles on a pipe cleaner) refused to sit in the café for another second.  The crappy plastic gravestones didn’t help either nor the fact they were playing the sodding Monster Mash on repeat.

We’d been having fun up to that point.  My daughter whooping and cheering as the tram hurtled through the East Devon countryside at 10mph “Its really fast now, Daddy” she would yell every two minutes or so.  Despite the fact that I could at times literally have ran faster, whilst carrying my daughter on my back. 

Next Week – The Number Four.