The Horrors, ‘Who Can Say’

The Horrors

Strange House was an awfully enjoyable debut, big on the eyeliner and silly on the goth-garage growly histrionics, but that was about the size of it – silly yet enjoyable. It’s amazing what a pinch of Geoff Barrow can do. The surly Portisheader has twiddled the knobs, kicked against the pricks and, er, twisted the appendages for The Horrors’ second album Primary Colours and – against any odds you care to chalk up – we’re left with a fantastic record. Still garage rock, still psychedelic, still fronted by a bit of a Brett Anderson, but this time The Horrors are Joy Division with Krautrock propulsion. It can’t all be Barrow because basic songcraft has hepped up a notch – still, credit where it’s due.

‘Who Can Say’ piques the gossip buds with the idea it’s all about frontman Faris Badwan dumping polymath Peaches Geldof. When Faris gets all Shangri-Las in the middle talky bit – “And when I told her I didn’t love her anymore, she cried” – you even feel sorry for Bob’s bonny bunny. All that aside, it’s fuzzy, echoey and seedily real.

We had a talky bit in the car too:

“Are they Horrors?”

“That’s the name of the five of them together, sort of like The Beatles on your t-shirt.”

“Beatles?”

“Yes, and The Horrors all play instruments on this song. One of them, the second one along in that picture, sings. One plays the guitar, another plays the bass – which is like a guitar with fewer strings – another plays drums and the last one the piano.”

“I’ve got a pink piano.”

“I don’t think The Horrors have a pink piano.”

“No, they have a black one.”

“You’re probably right.”

Better off this way:

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[20] Portishead, ‘Sour Times’

1994 looks dark. Maybe it was dropping out of my Masters and taking coy steps into the record industry in forbidding London. Maybe it was the dawn of clog-footed Britpop. Maybe it was four months of Wet Wet Wet.

Or maybe it was the magnificently maudlin Portishead, introducing a refined and bleak take on the Massive Attack template, woefully misplaced on the coffee table yet a mainstay there all the same. It may boast gnomic lyrics, but ‘Sour Times’ is so steeped in woe-is-me and chilly zithers that it seems pretty clear where Beth Gibbons’ head’s at. Still, while the desperate “Nobody loves me” might come on like a tiresome whinge, it’s immediately undercut by “… not like you do”. Relief! She does have someone after all! Not that it sounds like a bed of roses. “After time, the bitter taste… Scattered seed, buried lives…”

Dummy’s a beast of an album, as I told Junior. She mulled it over, mesmerised by the sleeve. “Is it a beast? Is it scary?” Well, yes, it is a bit; it’s not one for the fragile listener. I wondered whether she liked the song and she murmured, “I don’t know.”

2008 Top 20 Singles?

Halfway through the year, always looking for delaying tactics and ways to ramp up the tension for the year-end countdown, here’s a minor indicator – the Top 20 Most Played 2008 Singles on my iPod thingy.

[1] Martha Wainwright, ‘Bleeding All Over You’
[2] The Ting Tings, ‘Great DJ’
[3] Laura Marling, ‘Ghosts’
[4] Alphabeat, ‘Fascination’
[5] Fleet Foxes, ‘White Winter Hymnal’
[6] Coldplay, ‘Violet Hill’
[7] The Ting Tings, ‘That’s Not My Name’
[8] Death Cab For Cutie, ‘I Will Possess Your Heart’
[9] MGMT, ‘Time To Pretend’
[10] Lykke Li, ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’
[11] Coldplay, ‘Viva La Vida’
[12] Santogold, ‘L.E.S. Artistes’
[13] Portishead, ‘Machine Gun’
[14] Vampire Weekend, ‘Oxford Comma’
[15] Laura Marling, ‘Cross Your Fingers’/’Crawled Out Of The Sea’
[16] Hercules And Love Affair, ‘Blind’
[17] The Shortwave Set, ‘No Social’
[18] Goldfrapp, ‘A&E’
[19] H ‘two’ O featuring Platnum, ‘What’s It Gonna Be’
[20] Foals, ‘Red Socks Pugie’

Admit it. You’re astonished.