Pulled Apart By Horses burst onto the stage with a refreshing combination of post-hardcore’s hefty riffage, punk’s speed, and indie’s chorus-is-king mentality coupled with tongues superglued to their cheeks. After years of intrepid questing for piss to take (aping The Who’s Live At Leeds album cover, naming songs ‘E=MC Hammer’ and ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’, closing an album with one riff repeated ad nauseum for eight minutes), they risked veering into anonymity on 2014’s comparatively straightforward rock album Blood, but pulled it off thanks to spacious production, personal lyrics and gothy post-punk rhythms.
The Haze is a kind of course correction, inasmuch as speed and goofiness is concerned. If you find yourself casting back wistfully to when The Hives cornered the market on supremely silly garage-rock, the album is well worth a listen. It’s a style that fits the band like a glove, and on songs like ‘Neighbourhood Witch’ and ‘Evil Twin’, the album marries it’s predecessor’s social anxiety with an ever-so-slight daffy supernatural quality. The band don’t waste much time: the lead single and title track moves from riff to verse to chorus to krautrock influenced breakdown to riff/verse/chorus again in under three minutes, and when it abruptly stops it’s like a tape getting cut off.
‘Lamping’ is where the band get most experimental, channelling Kinks-like vocals and a slow build to a stadium-demanding riff burst that recalls Led Zeppelin. The band have never seemed the kind to have such lofty goals, and ‘Lamping’ is still easily recognised as a Pulled Apart By Horses construction, but it’s a nice change of pace from an album that mostly lives to the spirit suggested by the title of its closing track, ‘Dumb Fun’.
Where the album falls short is in its focus on fun of the punks just playing around variety rather than poppy exuberance. The band had a hell of a way with building phrases and choruses that stick to the mind – I challenge you to listen to their first two albums without at least one song refusing to replay over and over afterwards – but I have struggled to recall any such moments this time around.
But this is a minor quibble, as it clearly wasn’t the band’s intent – song structures be damned, they just wanted to put together a fun, back-to-basics punk album. In sum, what is The Haze? It is enjoyable, and easy to recommend to fans of hard-hitting rock that doesn’t take itself seriously. But even in that sphere, the band are capable of much more, and I hope The Haze serves more as a breather before their next twist on the formula.