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Did The Horrors start the new post-punk revival?

Did The Horrors start the new post-punk revival? 

(Credits: Far Out / YouTube Stills / Album Cover / Paul Hudson)


Between the growing prominence of Dan Carey, Speedy Wunderground and the Windmill scene, the late 2010s saw a revitalised interest in the angular guitars and shouty vocals of post-punk. But ten years before Black Midi and Squid were to even feature on a Speedy compilation, The Horrors released their second album, Primary Colours

Spanning anguished, spoken vocals on ‘I Only Think Of You’ and ‘New Ice Age’ and gloomy danceable tracks like ‘Do You Remember’ and ‘I Can’t Control Myself’, Primary Colours was an amalgamation of genres. Combining elements of shoegaze, psychedelia, post-punk and goth, the album features jangly guitars, electronic synths, and Ian Curtis-inspired vocals, was met with critical acclaim and received a Mercury Prize nomination in 2009 as a result. 

The lead single from the album, ‘Sea Within A Sea’, is an eight-minute unstructured track with classic post-punk style vocals and krautrock influences, building from minimal instrumentation to danceable electronica. Tom Cowan spoke on the decision to make the track the first single to Interview Magazine, where he stated: “It says everything that needs to be said in the new album. And it says it without it having to be packaged into a three-minute pop single and without having to concern ourselves with how it would fare in the charts. We put it out there and let people draw their own conclusions.”

The video for the track was directed by Douglas Hart of post-punk shoegaze pioneers Jesus and Mary Chain. It sees the band performing the track, overlaid with blurry, colourful filters calling back to both shoegaze and psychedelic aesthetics. While it’s far more restrained than the current shouty, angular post-punk scene, The Horrors call back to many elements and artists from post-punk’s thriving scene in the seventies and eighties. 

Some ten years on from its release, Cowan reflected on the influence of post-punk on the album while speaking to Loud and Quiet. He recalls: “Hearing PiL and thinking, hmm… there’s a bit more going on here”. The influence of the likes of Joy Division and The Cure is clear in the darker elements of the album. 

As in post-punk’s heyday, The Horrors also cultivated a scene and aesthetic around their music. Rhys Webb told Loud and Quiet: “We were probably one of the last bands that influenced or inspired kids and fans to really get into the look and come to the gigs looking a certain way.”

He continued: “There were queues around the block of people in drainpipes and polka dots and spiky hair or whatever”. This image isn’t far off the gothic aesthetic surrounding early post-punk scenes. 

The Horrors took inspiration from early post-punk to fuse the genre and aesthetic with psychedelia and shoegaze. Though it was a softer, gloomier form of post-punk than the one we know today, The Horrors were ahead of the curve in the genre’s revival, paving the way for the Windmill scene. 

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