It’s no surprise that The Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’ is the frothing-at-the-mouth critical hit of the year so far. It does, after all, quarry all the influences music journalists traditionally cream their jeans over – drums by Neu!, guitars by My Bloody Valentine, vocals by The Psychedelic Furs – in such a way that allows the deployment of words rock scribes love to use, such as ‘motorik’, ‘lysergic’ and ‘dronescapes’ (although only The Oberver saw fit to use the phrase “meta-textual frisson”).
This album could be no more critically adored were it to be penned by Dylan, produced by Kevin Shields, and topped off with a guest spot by Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators. As it is, it’s produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, who surely deserves much of the credit for turning the band’s ramshackle live sound into something so unutterably sleek and exhilarating.
Because it is, cynicism aside, an astonishing record. But it seems much of the critical hysteria derives from the fact that so little was expected. NME excepted, most publications were pretty cool on The Horrors’ debut album ‘Strange House’, and subsequently wrote them off as Shoreditch hipsters with exemplary record collections but little talent.
Yet those critics have been perfectly happy to be proved wrong by ‘Primary Colours’. That’s because there is a special thrill in witnessing a band take such a massive step up on their second album. Think of Nirvana following up the cheerless sludge-punk of ‘Bleach’ with ‘Nevermind’. Or Neil Young outflanking his bloodless debut with ‘Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere’. Or The Strokes transcending the… OK, maybe not the last one.
But what do you think? What are the most jaw-dropping second-album transformations in music history? And does The Horrors’ ‘Primary Colours’ deserve to be counted among their number?