Will the real Horrors please stand up? Or is there a real Horrors? With its third album, the British group enters its third phase. It’s not so much a reinvention as yet another appropriation.
After an occasionally fierce and often gimmicky debut that was deeply indebted to the goth-punk fury of the Birthday Party and a stellar follow-up steeped in the shoegazing sounds of My Bloody Valentine, the quintet has now set its sights squarely on the 1980s. It’s as if the band members listened to the Echo and the Bunnymen compilation “Songs to Learn and Sing” and took the title literally.
But they sure learned them and sing them well. The Horrors have yet to forge their own identity, but they continue to be plenty convincing and enjoyable with whatever sound they choose. “Skying” is appropriately titled, a collection of songs that regularly achieve anthemic liftoff, thanks to widescreen dynamics and singer Faris Badwan’s classic U.K. croon. There is no tentativeness. Each of the 10 songs shoots for epic, and the majority pull off the feat. As the influences shift from bands as noted for songwriting as aesthetic, the Horrors have raised their game to keep up.
Things mostly stay at lighter-waving speed, with the casual shuffle of “You Said” and “Still Life” boosted by layers of guitars, keyboards and horns. Attention to detail is one of the band’s strengths; effects are doled out efficiently, so songs build up steam and crescendos never feel forced. A few more guitar-fueled steamrollers such as “I Can See Through You” and “Endless Blue” would have been welcome instead of a pair of wandering eight-minute tracks that bog down the second half of “Skying,” but maybe the band is saving up that sound for its next album.
“Skying” will be released Aug. 9 but is streaming now on the Horrors’ Web site, www.thehorrors.co.uk. The band performs at the Black Cat on Sept. 30.
“Still Life,” “Endless Blue,” “You Said”