It’s tempting to read the title of The Horrors’ fifth album as a symbol of its sleek, solid contents, but frontman Faris Badwan also wants you to read the ‘V’ as “a f***-you, in a British, two-fingers way.” He adds: “We thought it was funny.”
But ‘V’ will raise more eyebrows than smiles. Over the past 10 years, the Southend-formed quintet have engorged their doomy garage-rock with psychedelia, shoegaze and electro, and they seem to be toasting their recent support slot with Depeche Mode with this 10-song, hour-long strut through dry ice and – somewhat improbably – towards the arena. For the first time, the band are working with producer Paul Epworth, the man behind chart-beating albums from London Grammar, Florence + The Machine and Adele, as well as last year’s two comeback singles from Madchester legends The Stone Roses. Newly signed to Epworth’s label Wolf Tone, and following up ‘Luminous’ (an album they reckon “could have been better”) the band have responded by unleashing their ballsiest selves.
Almost all the songs here last longer than five minutes: we’re a long way from their garage-punk debut ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’. Stomping lead single ‘Machine’ epitomises The Horrors’ newly assured swagger; baggy dawdler ‘Press Enter To Exit’ throws in a cheeky false ending; and on album opener ‘Hologram’ – shaved down from its original state as a 25-minute ambient house banger – Badwan channels his inner Brandon Flowers to ask: “Are we hologram? Are we vision?”. Elsewhere the peaks come in the prickly bursts of emotion. Silky kiss-off ‘Point of No Reply’ builds to a crackling climax as Faris mourns: “I’m fighting the fire and you’re fanning the flames,” while ‘Weighed Down’ finds him groaning: “Don’t let love bring you down” over bassy squalls.
The real revelation, though, is the glittering seven-minute closer ‘Something To Remember Me By’, built around a pulsing synth line that nods unexpectedly to New Order. “In true Horrors self-destructive fashion,” they revealed upon its rapturous reception, “we nearly left this off the record entirely.” Thank god they didn’t: it’s a barrier-smashing victory march, opening up an entirely new avenue for the band to explore.