Autobiographical Order No. 467: The Horrors – Primary Colours

I admire bands that are willing to hit the reset button and start fresh whenever they make a new record. As a band, especially a well established one, there’s a certain balance that’s arguably necessary between not alienating your existing fans and being able to break out of a particular mold or lane. Of course, then again, you can also just say “screw it” and do something different altogether without worrying much about the consequences. There aren’t that many successful artists who have entirely abandoned their old sound and started fresh. You can maybe argue Brian Eno did that—he made rock records for a few years, concurrently with ambient records, and eventually decided he wasn’t interested in the rock records anymore. But it’s not as if the ambient stuff was totally unprecedented for him. And Bowie obviously changed course numerous times throughout his career, but then again, that’s what he became famous for.

The Horrors are a bit of a different story. When they were just starting out, they had a schlocky horror-punk gimmick with goofy outfits and big, teased hair. Basically like the Munsters meets the Misfits. And they were destined to be a flavor of the month.

But then they came back a couple years later with Primary Colours, and everything changed. It’s produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, for one, which already makes it worthy of perking up one’s ears—everything he touches is pretty much fantastic. Second, they obviously spent some time listening to Silver Apples, the 4AD catalog, and so on. What they delivered was a psychedelic gothic shoegaze album that reinvented the Horrors as artists interested in exploration and pushing their creative limits rather than cultivating an image. Don’t get me wrong—I love the Cure. Hairspray is fine. But even as someone with as much goth in my catalog as I have, I just don’t cotton to Halloween rock.

But this album is magnificent. Honestly, one of the most incredible cases of reinvention in the past 15-20 years that stands out to me. “Three Decades” is just tense and eerie, and “Sea Within a Sea” is a transcendent krautrock dirge. Just great music all around, and they continued to evolve after the fact. Their next album Skying is essentially full shoegaze (though it reminds me more of The Verve than, say, My Bloody Valentine) and basically they haven’t had a misstep yet.

I obviously bought this because I was goth DJing, etc. etc. etc. but also because it’s a great album that I like listening to. And it’s a reminder that sometimes you can start fresh, you can take a risk, and you can reinvent yourself, often for the better.

Rating: 9.3

Sound Quality: Great

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