Chaotic, vitriolic and unashamedly rock ‘n’ bloody roll; Pulled Apart By Horses have embodied the tag of ‘Most Thrilling British Rock Band’ for many years. While some people may gravitate to the ‘Great Ginger One’ (no, not that one) when looking for their fix of Brit-grit, it shouldn’t be forgotten that PABH have been at the front line of ass kicking, gut pummelling rock for (almost) ten years.
New album, The Haze, the follow up to 2014’s Blood, finds the Leeds quartet looking to rediscover the love of being a band after a typically intense few years. So, with a new drummer in tow and apparently reinvigorated by their decision to write the album at a remote and isolated cottage in Wales, can Yorkshire’s finest still kick it with the best…?
Yeah, pretty much.
Musically, all the usual PABH elements are present. The riffs and arrangements are pretty standard; layers of guitars build a wall of sound that backs up their raucous pedigree, all accompanied by new drummer Tommy Davidson attempting to destroy the living shit out of his snare drum (seriously, Tommy, did your snare drum fuck your girlfriend or something? Jesus!) In fact there are moments on the record when the rhythm section is so freaking loud it does beg the question – what went on between the band and their instruments in that remote Welsh cottage? However, don’t read this as a negative – after all PABH have always been best served live, and in The Haze we get a pretty decent representation of what it’s like to hear/see these guys in the flesh.
Opening track, ‘The Haze’ starts with a Fugazi like intro consisting of a yelping Tom Hudson and his solitary guitar, before kicking in with an urgent and stabbing main groove. It’s a good start, one that makes it incredibly clear that PABH intend to have the time of their lives – a party starter for sure.
That party rarely lets up during the first half of the record. ‘The Big What If’, ‘Hotel Motivation’, and the amazingly titled ‘Prince Of Meats’, radiate more of that frantic, basement sing-a-long vibe, with the former delivering the album’s best lyric; “I prey to my own toilet bowl that I wont be swallowed whole”. ‘Neighbourhood Witch’, meanwhile, will have you yelping along with the lyrical repetition of “never gonna take my soul”, as your eye twitches to the beat of every violent hit of that poor, abused snare drum.
The pace slows at the mid point with ‘Lamping’; a lengthy (a whole four minutes and twenty two seconds) psychedelic stoner jam. It’s Black Sabbath does Sgt. Pepper’s; even in their slower moments, PABH are having the time of their lives.
The tempo picks up with ‘Flash Lads’ which teases out the intro for a good forty five seconds. When it does finally kick in I’m momentarily disorientated; the lyrics and Hudson’s voice seem to mimic Refused’s ‘Summer Holidays vs Punk Routine’, and it isn’t just a passing resemblance either. As the track continues it becomes harder and harder to shake the thoughts of Denis Lyxzen and co. Are PABH guilty of borrowing too much from one of post-harcore’s most iconic bands? Or is it just a coincidence? Whatever, the track’s a banger either way.
Next track, another banger. ‘Moonbather’ has it all; it’s a hooky, gang vocal delight that pushes the party along with QOTSA-like precision; “there’s still life in the old dog yet”, Hudson sings. Damn right.
We get a bit of a free-for-all on reverb and almost inaudible vocals on the (mostly) forgettable ‘What’s Up Dude?’, and we start to get into fatigue territory. ‘Brass Castles’ gives the party a bit of a pick me up but I cant help but feel this shindig is running out of steam. However, we get a decent last hoorah with ‘Dumb Fun’, which ends on a healthy dose of Sabbath influenced duelling guitars. It gives The Haze the epic conclusion its first half deserves.
This sounds like an incredibly fun record. There’s an anthemic Foo Fighter-like stadium rock feel but with a serving suggestion that reads; “best performed in a small, tightly packed basement”. It has that gritty rock ‘n roll swagger of Frank Carter. It has the big noisy balls of The Jesus Lizard. It has the Beefheart-like psychedelia. But most of all it has the wit and irreverence to be memorable. And here in lies the key to how much you’ll want to return to The Haze after that initial listen.
Because this is an album that tends to rely a bit too much on its influences, we don’t get to discover anything particularly new. However, rather than being just another ballsy but generic British rock album, the lyrical wit and irreverent themes within give it an edge.
For fans of the band, it’ll surely ignite some renewed excitement for one of the UK’s best live acts, for non-fans it probably wont inspire many repeat listens. But if you’re late to the party that’s your fault; PABH will continue to have a good time, regardless.
The Haze is out now on Caroline International.