Horace Goes Skiing
Horace Goes Skiing @ mp3.com
Pop Kid UK

em Review

Before I get into the actual review, I'll just say that this was originally intended to be in the Shorties section of the site. But its taken me so long to get round to reviewing it, that I'm making it up to Harvey from Pop Kid by making it a main feature.


Idly flicking through an issue of Kerrang! One boring Saturday afternoon I arrive at the reviews section. I hardly ever bother reading any of these as they’re usually about CDs by bands no-one has really ever heard of, or long-haired pretend Satanists trying to keep death-metal alive with band names randomly plucked from Norse mythology or H. P. Lovecraft stories.

However, this time one band name did stand out. I’ve always been a sucker for a good band name; not that it has to be funny or poetic, but names like Pavement and Bivouac have led me – in the past – to buying albums before even hearing and songs by the band.

I’m also a sucker for retro games and 80s nostalgia, so when the name ‘Horace Goes Skiing’ caught my eye I was immediately interested. And I think this is one of the only Kerrang! Album reviews I have read.

About a month or so later a friend told me she knew the band. This was to become the start of a bizarre, hazy chain of events which led me to receiving a copy of the bands CD ‘Yeah Right Sure’ through the post.

Well ok, Harvey from Pop Kid Records emailed me saying he heard I wanted to review it, I said ‘Yeah, cool’ and he sent me a copy. But let’s just pretend there were traps, puzzles, hookers and monsters involved. Damn I need some rock n roll stories.

Just before I get into the album, let me just explain that Horace Goes Skiing was a fantastic game on the Sinclair Spectrum. It was actually the first game I had on my Spectrum (also my first computer), the sentimental attachments of which probably led me to being so interested after catching a glimpse of the bands name.

And upon listening to the album it’s this feeling of nostalgia which remains, only jolted forward about 10 years or so. Maybe I’ve just been out of the underground/indie scene for too long, but the sound is reminiscent of the 7”’s by little known indie bands I used to buy circa 94/95; which - to me at least - says that it has that rough, lo-fi sound that seems to sound just right on vinyl.

Opening track ‘5.65 Keep Breathing’ is a great start to the album, with punk/pop riffs and a beat to pogo to. The intro sounds eerily like the first song I ever wrote – which I suppose is a good thing. In terms of sound and structure it’s a great track, especially with the drop towards the end, morphing itself into a chilled out hazy summers evening sounding melody. I still always find myself singing ‘there’s a time and a place for everything, this is the exception to the rule’ for most of the day after listening to it.

I’m still not sure about the lyric ‘haven’t got the time for feeling like a bellend’ though. I don’t think I’ve used, or even heard ‘bellend’ since I was in school, but since I’ve moved to London I’ve heard it used a few times – so I guess it’s a London thing.

Lyrically - this kind of sets the feel of the album. It was apparently recorded about 10 years ago, so expect some immature lyrics, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Most of the time they get to the point, like ‘I’m sorry for being cheesy, this time it was so easy’ on ‘Lookout There’s Sand Everywhere’ and ‘I cock this up and I’m to blame’ on ‘Yum Yum Yum’. Not the most poetic of lyrics, but then there are lines such as ‘these insurances we crave don’t cover everything, but this time I’m healing’ woven into the song.

But I’m focusing too much on the lyrics here. The music has a great raw sound, good structure and held together well by the melodic bass lines and mixture of jangly and driving guitars. Very reminiscent – as I mentioned – of early 90s indie bands such as Mega City Four, The Doughboys and some of the Newport punk bands like 60Ft Dolls and Flyscreen.

It’s that rough punk/pop – with the emphasis on punk – sound that got floppy haired indie kids moshing back then. And which Horace Goes Skiing employ now, with heavy, thrashy-twanging of the guitars and shouty/can’t-carry-a-tune-and-proud vocals which lend themselves so well to punk. But there is also a bitter pill of emotion dropped into the mix especially on tracks like ‘All Spleen No Gleen’.

It’s taken me a few listens and has started to grow on me, but I think this has a lot to do with taking me back to those records I used to listen to as a teenager. A lot of old punks could probably get into it too with the 70s-punk influenced tracks such as ‘Up Yours Hitchcock’ and, once again, ‘Yum Yum Yum’ – which also gets another mention for the excellent ‘Rocky’ sample included towards the end under the blanket of the song.

I’m left wondering what kids today would make of this sound though. There’s been a lot of backlash against overproduced American nu-metal and punk/POP lately, and over-produced is certainly something ‘Yeah Right Sure’ isn’t. Maybe they’ll see it as a refreshing change? With Horace Goes Skiing finding a place within the new British rock scene amongst bands like Hundred Reasons and Hell Is For Heroes.

The album ends on the downbeat and (I hope I’m right in assuming this) purposefully naff sounding ‘Jana’. Well, I say ‘ends’, that’s where the album officially ends, but there are still 4 more tracks included from the bands previously released in 1997 ‘Domestic Violence’ 7”.

These 4 tracks probably make up the best part of the album for me, and it was a great idea to include them. Things kick off with the excellent ‘Input=Output’. This is very similar to early Doughboys songs, with great dynamics and structure – it sounds a little more mature than the previous tracks on the album. And by ‘mature’ I mean progressive in terms of the band's songwriting.

The remaining tracks include a cover of Cat Stevens’ ‘Father & Son’ and closing track ‘Ignore The Screaming’ which includes another cool movie sample courtesy of John Hughes 80s classic ‘Pretty In Pink’, and the closing, yet touching line ‘Even though I’m falling I’m still reaching for your hand’.

‘Yeah Right Sure’ was a strange album for me to listen to. I didn’t think much of it at first, probably because I’m so used to everything being so produced these days and don’t buy so many ‘indie’ records anymore. I’d already heard ‘Input=Output’ on mp3.com and thought it was a great track, but the other tracks I wasn’t so sure about. However, after quite a few listens it’s started to grow on me. The blunt lyrics are kind of endearing to a certain extent, and at just over 38mins it’s a snappy album that I’ve started to warm to.

So now I’m torn between wondering if Horace Goes Skiing would benefit from better production to maybe get some airplay and reach a more mainstream punk audience, or whether the charm lies in the lo-fi production and they should stick to their roots. Whatever the case, I look forward to hearing some new material – let’s hope it doesn’t take another 10 years.


Download '5.65 Keep Breathing', 'Up Yours Hitchcock' and 'Input=Output' mp3s from mp3.com here

david twomey

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Horace Goes Skiing
Yeah Right Sure

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