Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Horrors S/T

I’ll shove a pineapple up my ass if this doesn’t go down as one of my top ten favorites of the decade. Hailing from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Horrors released this utter monster of a record in the year 2000. You can compare the early Cramps boom/crash stomp of The Horrors to Pussy Galore and Doo Rag, and you won’t be far off. But this album is something else entirely, and it still sounds just as perfect as when I first played it four years ago, it all it’s primitive, noisy, and oddly danceable glory. In fact, primitive is much to tame a word, the record sounds like the grooves were carved with a rock into warm primordial slime. The drums hit you right in the pelvis, the guitars groan and throb, and the vocalist sounds is as crazed as any rockabilly singer you can care to name, just far rougher and unpolished. You can just tell sometimes, when a drummer was really banging his kit, not even playing, just beating it, and it comes through on every cymbal crash (and when I say crash, I mean in the sense of two giant trucks smashing into each other), snare crack, and thudding tom, and I’m willing to bet whoever did the duties on the record just pulverized his kit. The artwork is eerie green colored photos without a track listing, just the backlit Horrors in what looks like the famed Bronson Caverns. Imagine the surprise on some lucky record hunter’s face when he picks up this gem fifty years from now, the vague cover giving no indication to the utter chaos that lies within. The first track ‘Every Inch Of My Love’ kicks the record off flawlessly. It’d be a shame to give it away, but much like the beginning riff of ‘Rocks Off’ leads you into the wonderfully shambling record, ‘Every Inch Of My Love’ just screams, and can knock you out of your chair if you’re not expecting it, pulling you into one of the least relaxed, recordings ever. After some nominal feedback, the drums start their beautifully simple and concise beat, the guitars settles into a perverse groove, and when the vocals start, they sound like they were recorded a room away from the mike. The song lulls for a few seconds, and the song just explodes. There’s no other way to describe it. It just leaps out and you. After the song tapers off a bit, giving you a chance to catch your breath, it explodes again, except this time there is a guitar solo that songs like it escaped out of the speakers and is going to bite you. It’s followed by the bluesy chug of ‘The Next Train I See’, and when I say bluesy, I don’t mean in the way the unforgivable dipshits like the pompous fuckbrains in The Soledad Brothers. I mean bluesy like a couple of rural youngsters in a nowhere town in a third rate state making the most racket they possibly can.‘I Don’t Need A Women I Need A Nurse’, is a different beast entirely, a stiffer, stilted, totally relentless crawl after the loose song that it followed. The drummer is really pounding on this track, and on this album, that’s really saying something. The two guitarists trade off an ugly riff, coming in and out over the monotonous beat, bending strings and sending off sheets of noise. The vocals are desperate, gruff, and despite the general indecipherability of everything the singer says, you can tell he means every word. ‘Cold Blooded’ is a testament to sheer intensity of The Horrors, they can even pull of a song under a title that would be deeply silly in any other band’s hand’s, and set it up with a marching beat, waves of reverb, that shifts in and out from controlled, to barreling out of control, on dime. This isn’t just musical neophytes bashing away, although admittedly some of the record sounds just like that (in the best sense), but the record is still calculated, and there are innovative structures under the sweat. The final track, ‘Back In The Cut’ has the non-singing guitarist literally beating his amp. I’m serious. He’s hitting it, causing the reverb tank to shudder in protest, the guitar lines warbling off into noise, as the song stays steadily on. For my money, my favorite song is ‘Pick Me Up’, it starts perversely quiet before everything kicks into overdrive, after what feels absurdly long intro, and the way The Horrors can sustain the intensity for a full four minutes is nothing short of amazing. I feel tired and spent after listening to it, I couldn’t imagine playing it. I was lucky enough to see The Horrors live a few times, and their live show was, if anything, even better then their first record. But that’s an entry for another time. The Horrors followed this up with ‘Vent’, a more pedestrian effort, before breaking up a little while after the second record’s release. They admirably tried to change their approach a bit (and it is doubtful any band could have pulled off an album ferocious enough to follow this first effort), but it doesn’t feel nearly as cohesive. It’s still an interesting record, well worth owning that I find myself playing more often then I thought I would. But the first record should be held in far higher regard today. Kudos to engineer by Mike McHugh, who made a record that sounds like you dug a hole to hell and recorded it with a shitty microphone. McHugh went on to make records for some fine other bands who likely carry The Horrors flag high today, The Hunches and The Hospitals. Let Jim Diamond get the media attention, McHugh is making the better albums. I see the Coachwhips gathering accolades and attention across the land, and I’ll bet you my good teeth that they have this record in their cabinet somewhere.

If you don’t have it, buy this fucking record.

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