Believe it or not, but there was a time when Pulled Apart By Horses were considered a truly exciting new band. It was for good reason too, mainly because the monopolisation of the indie-garage-grunge style was yet to really take hold, and because their 2010 debut album was a genuinely strong album of scrappy rock free from pretension or gimmickry. Even its 2012 follow-up Tough Love was a worthy successor with at least a handful of standout moments. With Blood in 2014 though, things began to hit a real snag with what was an overall forgettable album that saw them confined to a position in the same Leeds-centric scene as acts like Hookworms and Sky Larkin that they’re still yet to break out of.
Sadly The Haze is yet another step down, the work of a band trying to cobble together the remnants of a sound that reached its use-by date an album ago at least. And the thing is it’s pretty easy to explain why. It comes in a clear ratio shift in the composition of their sound, toning down the more overt grunge elements in favour of more indie and garage rock. It leaves The Haze sounding horribly dated and uninspired, particularly with its scratchy production and Tom Hudson’s decision to cut out a lot of his screams for a drawn-out, unrefined sneer. Think about The Vines or The Datsuns for the first time in a decade and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
But even those bands had a Get Free and an MF From Hell to keep them afloat, and Pulled Apart By Horses do have a couple of them under their belts on The Haze. The jumpy guitars of Hotel Motivation and My Evil Twin are entertaining enough, and there’s enough of a scorched quality to the riffs of The Big What If and Prince Of Meats to at least hint that something a bit more visceral and full-on lies under the surface. Because for the most part, between a dated-as-hell regression in sound and the fact that most of these tracks fade from the memory as soon as they’re over, The Haze spurs on barely any reaction. Sure, some might get a kick from the staccato, Strokes-esque guitars of the title track and Dumb Fun, but even then it feels like B-material at best. That’s not even taking into account just how much of this album screams of filler, with the most distinctive and interesting feature of tracks like Flash Lads and What’s Up Dude being their names, or how the sluggish, sticky psychedelia of Lamping brings this album grinding to a halt in an attempt to be the album’s expansive centrepiece.
To be fair to Pulled Apart By Horses, they’re nowhere near as bad at holding a listener’s attention as many a landfill garage-rock band – Hudson’s loose vocal style has some personality, and the oblique, occasionally indecipherable lyrics are interesting enough on their own and make this album at least appear more compelling. But this is all just textbook stuff for Pulled Apart By Horses, and while The Haze shows that they have their absolute fundamentals on lock, anything beyond that is pretty up in the air at this point. As it stands this just isn’t an interesting album, drawing on styles that haven’t aged well and doing nothing to rectify that. If The Haze was released in 2005 it might’ve been a bit more kindly received, but for the same thing over a decade later, it feels like a band spinning their wheels and little else.
For fans of: Dinosaur Pile-Up, The Vines, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Haze’ by Pulled Apart By Horses is released on 17th March on Caroline International.