Founded in 2005 in Southend-on-Sea, one would be forgiven for being surprised that The Horrors are continuing to survive in 2017, acting as more of a reflection of their indie compatriots as opposed to the band per se. This warrants an explanation: after being hyped as 'the band most likely to leap to the main stage in 2007', time has reduced 'the Pigeon Detectives' from on stage cameos with ex-Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino and Razorlight, to performing at campervan festivals in North Wales through the weathering inflicted by the unforgiving hyperreality of popular culture. Every album for The Horrors, by comparison has been universally acclaimed, which in Rhys Webb's mind makes it the perfect time to 'make something quite horrible and quite unsettling again' (Vice, 2017) as evidenced in the gothic dispositions within their debut 'Strange House' (2007). Their latest offering, 'V' (2017), restores these noise-driven and brooding qualities through a darkwave tinted lens, mirroring the atmospheres of Joy Division and Depeche Mode whom the band had the honour of supporting in June.
The memorable moments in 'V', of which there are many, could be summed up as commercially cosmic as with the irony of Andy Warhol's pop-art. The opening 'Hologram' keeps the listener swaying through a pulsating saw-wave bassline to which effectively maintain its eight-bit ambience. The following 'Press Enter Exit Here' works off of an interesting contrast between several marginally detached sections, consisting of an intro mirroring Hans Zimmer's 'Interstellar' soundtrack, before dropping into a hubristic sounding verse, full of percussive flourishes and textures projected in a reverberated space. The most arguably captivating section could be in the extensive instrumental section commencing around the 4:35 mark, starting with a distorted and low-pass filtered drum beat (retaining the Geoff Barrow's Portishead influence in 'Primary Colours' (2009)) before transcending into an acid-house inspired breakdown that bears similarities with Primal Screams 'Higher Than the Sun (dub)' (1991) to ready the stage for Joshua Hayward's tube-screaming solo.
'Machine' continues this ironically conceited timbre, mechanically in keeping with both Warhol's creative doctrine as well as its own its name, sounding remarkably like a perfectly infused combination of 'Kid A' and 'Idioteque' from Radiohead's landmark album (also titled) 'Kid A' (2000), whilst also retaining the Chemical Brothers as a stylistic influence in the process. 'Ghost' is a glitchier addition and succeeds in maintaining its potent unpredictability through dragging the listener from cognitive stargazing for one second to travelling through hyperspace at lightspeed in another. It is here where the album delves with some dynamic and stylistic variations, with 'Weighed Down' sounding like a cinematic art- house version of Robyn's 'With Every Heartbeat' (2005) in the intro before entering into moody trip-hop which in places would not sound unwelcome in 'Mezzanine (1998) and 'Gathering', as the most organic contribution to offer slight relief from the unceasingly occurring and dense harmonic fillers. These, for the most part, are so judiciously assembled to Paul Epworth's credit, that such a suggestion could even be perceived as unnecessary.
'World Below' is a reminder that much of this album is probably too catchy to not be regarded as a commercial record, yet this is more effectively endorsed in the 'It's a Good Life', which could arguably be best described as a sequel in the form of a darkwave ballad to unwavering fan-favourite 'Still-Life' (2011), perhaps symbolizing The Horrors' Faris Badwin answering his own cry for help. If there was any downside to mention, it would be with the closer 'Something to Remember Me By' which comes across as slightly middle-of-the-road in the midst of the suffused dream-punk ambience but nonetheless, this does not change the fact that this is a strikingly good album and one which deserves the highest of acclamation. Calling this 'album of the year' may be a premature statement at this point, though one thing is for sure: an orderly queue will have to be formed for those keen to make the case.