Mercury Prize: The Horrors – Primary Colours

Video: ‘Who Can Say’

What did I know about The Horrors? I knew they were from Southend, and that Primary Colours was their second album. I’d never listened to them first time around; but there seemed to be a broad critical consensus that the new record was both very good, and a significant change in direction.

To test this out, I decided to give the début a listen first. Let’s just say that we didn’t get along. But it’s Primary Colours on the Mercury shortlist; and that album is a dark, moody, melodramatic species of rock. Perhaps that’s inevitable from a band with a name like ‘The Horrors’ and a singer like Faris Badwan, who doesn’t so much sing his vocals as intone them. But there’s more variety than you might expect (even a three-minute pop song, in the title track); and there’s a furious energy to the playing that stops it all feeling ridiculous. I can see without doubt why someone might love this record.

But I didn’t.

I don’t know why, but there’s something about this album that stops me from getting into it. Perhaps it’s the way the music seems to turn in on itself, whereas I prefer music that opens outwards (if that makes any sense at all). Whatever, the end result is the same. Don’t get me wrong, there are still moments that catch my ear — I keep humming along to ‘Mirror’s Image’, for example; and there’s the way ‘Sea Within a Sea’ transforms over its eight minutes into what sounds like an attempt to recreate the soundtrack of a ZX Spectrum game. But still, I find Primary Colours a difficult album to like.

Video: ‘Mirror’s Image’ (live)

Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.

1 Comment

  1. ! First review of this album I’ve ever seen that didn’t mention one word about post-punk or krautrock ! Probably better that way, since I think the Horrors’ open discussion of their influences make people judge them too quickly and decry their ‘borrowing’ from past genres, but on the other hand, they don’t sound like any one band in particular, and knowing what their influences are, I think, is an important part of understanding their work on both their last and first albums.

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