Britain’s the Horrors go totally ’80s on their fifth album
In retrospect, Faris Badwan sheepishly admits that he didn’t think it all the way through. But when his friend and fellow Brit, video artist Chris Cunningham, recently suggested that they toss water balloons from his attic onto the streets below, he instantly agreed.
“I won’t say exactly what we did, but the evening ended with both of us, chest down on the floor, making sure we were out of sight from the open windows, so the police car down below couldn’t see us,” chuckles the wraithlike, six-foot-five frontman for the Horrors. “And it got so bad, we were seriously considering going out the back window and climbing down the drainpipe to make our escape.”
The breathless caper is exactly why the 30-year-old Badwan loves hanging out with Cunningham, 16 years his senior. “He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and he’s basically a big kid, and that comes from his curiosity,” he says.
Badwan’s own irrepressible curiosity is the creative force that propels him in his artwork (usually dark and detailed, it’s lately drifted into bright watercolors that he’ll soon exhibit); the imprint he launched to sign inventive young artists, RAFT Records; Cat’s Eyes (an ethereal duo he formed with significant other Rachel Zeffira, currently at work on its third album); and most assuredly V (Wolftone/Caroline). The latest sonically adventurous Horrors effort was overseen by noted pop producer Paul Epworth, who’s worked with Adele and Florence And The Machine.
The original Horrors sound was inspired by American acts like the Cramps and the Gun Club, and it manifested on gravelly goth/garage 2007 debut Strange House, then matured into the dreamier neo-psychedelia of 2011’s Skying and 2014’s Luminous. But on V, Epworth heavily emphasizes the retro-miasmic keyboards of Tom Cowan as well as Badwan’s spooky, crypt-echoed vocals, arriving at a collection of ’80s-retro anthems that resembles the soundtrack to a John Hughes movie.
The opening, wall-of-sinister-keyboards “Hologram” echoes Modern English, the funeral-parlor-toned “Weighed Down” could pass for classic OMD, “Point Of No Reply” touches on vintage Simple Minds, and the closing “Something To Remember Me By” could be a remnant of Dare-era Human League.
Only one V morsel was left untreated. Straightforward folk jangler “Gathering” is representative of a new Horrors approach. “Rhys (Webb, bassist) and I did try writing songs in a more traditional sense, which we hadn’t done before,” says Badwan, who has composed an entire album in said mode that he hopes to record. Adding to that Breakfast Club aura: The group opened for New Order last year, and Depeche Mode this summer. Badwan also just did a shoot with legendary English fashion photographer David Bailey, who taunted him by suggesting he looked like a Yorkshire terrier and then inquired, “Is there ever any hope in your eyes?”
As usual, Badwan was undaunted. “For some reason, I’ve never had much fear of consequence, and my risk assessment is not really there,” he says, water balloons be damned. “That’s kind of where I’m at now, for better or worse.”