With each of their first three albums, The Horrors reinvented their sound, moving from garage-goth to shoey Krautrock to baggy bliss-outs. 2014’s Luminous saw their sound stagnate a little, but on their fifth album, V, they’re back with another grand change; here, the quintet, fronted by Faris Badwan, have taken some tricks from the goth-pop sound of Gary Numan and Depeche Mode.
The shiny, glowering highlights “Machine” and “Holograms” update the band’s swaggering sound from 2011’s Skying, the result reminiscent of the Mode’s underrated “Barrel Of A Gun”, while “Press Enter To Exit” has a breezy funk strut to it, something completely alien to the old Horrors.
The experimentation doesn’t always work: “Point Of No Reply” is a little generic, sharing its chord sequence with half the songs in the singles chart – there are no millennial whoops here, but still, the horrors are capable of more. Luckily, they demonstrate that on some of V’s other songs; highlights include the moment when the slow, dubby lope of “Weighed Down” is mauled by shoegaze guitar, “Gathering”, with its acoustic guitars, crisp drums and synths recalling Beck, and the robo-rock of the racing “World Below”.
The slightly dawdling middle section of V is forgotten by the close, with the ’80s disco-pop of “It’s A Good Life” suggesting early Talk Talk jamming with Kevin Shields, and “Something To Remember Me By”, a Balearic indie stomper, even trying out the old closing-and-opening-the-club-door trick.
V might not be perfect – certainly, it’s no match for 2009’s masterful Primary Colours – but it’s a strong staging post on The Horrors’ journey through the finest corners of their record collections. It introduces a more accessible, welcoming side to their music, too, suggesting that there is a heart that beats beneath their lean, impressive exterior.