With the release of their debut LP, Strange House, in 2007, The Horrors introduced themselves in the midst of the MySpace emo era with a campy goth aesthetic. The album fit perfectly at the time, but as the pop culture landscape changed, so did The Horrors. Primary Colours (2009) and Skying (2011) became some of the best indie records that Britain had to offer, standing out amid nearly identical “landfill indie” bands. The Horrors weren’t trying to imitate other major British indie bands at the time like Arctic Monkeys or Foals. Instead, they were making music as much for fans of Britpop as for shoegaze kids. But a decade after releasing Skying, their most critically acclaimed album, The Horrors are reinventing themselves once again. After taking a four-year hiatus upon the release of 2017’s V, the band has re-emerged with an industrial noise rock EP, Lout.
Lout is a difficult EP to place. It’ll either entice long-standing fans with its heavier sound, fitting well with the band’s aesthetic, or alienate those who prefer the band’s early work. But this reinvention of The Horrors somehow works. Frontman Faris Badwan’s voice has often lent itself to soothing tones, but Lout features a more aggressive side to Badwan, with his gnarled, distorted vocals accompanied by heavy, distorted guitar. Even the lyrics are darker this time: “I got a devil that won’t be denied / Tick and then stop again, tick and then stop and then / Stop for the final time,” Badwan sings on the title song. The Nine Inch Nails comparison is inevitable here, but “Lout” does sound like a modernized version of their classics. Meanwhile, “Org” is a fully instrumental electronic track that would be right at home in the club; it begs to be heard by sweaty dancers under strobe lights—and hopefully someday it will be. Badwan has talked about being a fan of late pop visionary SOPHIE, and even in the grittiness of the track, you can hear her influence.
The EP closes with “Whiplash,” and now that Marilyn Manson has become persona non grata in the industry due to allegations of his abusing numerous women, the track feels like The Horrors are throwing their hat in the ring as his non-toxic replacement, with Badwan replicating Manson’s signature snarls. It’s an intense song, but even when Badwan’s vocals sound intimidating, it manages to be as melodic as the band’s poppier and more shoegaze-inspired work. Many of the group’s contemporaries have split up, moving on to solo projects or fading into obscurity. But more than 10 years after their debut album, The Horrors are proving that they’re once again just getting started.