‘No one ever drinks this stuff indoors!’ Is there a better distillation (pun not intended, but gratefully employed) of the indie kid’s big night out – that mixture of big hopes and noisy desperation? It’s got the authentic whiff of North London about it – an important theme for Horsebox, possibly the first artistes ever to represent Potter’s Bar in song – but captures the heart of anywhere there are rain-soaked flyers, unwise crushes and questionable hooch to be had.
Horsebox have a facility, not just with one-liners but also two-liners and four-liners, making whole delicious songs that are funny and evocative. Their lyrics would make great streams of consciousness were they not so obviously well-crafted. Come to that, for a demo, the abovementioned ‘Stupid Parts of Town’ would make a great hit single, as would ‘I Don’t Remember Last Night’, a queasier, darker take on a similar scenario.
Both are shockingly complete, mature songs with great melodies, massive choruses and the unstoppable chemistry of all five band members. Will’s excitable yelp can resemble a less self-conscious Robert Smith, and there are definite strains of the Mystery Jets’ more recent take on psychedelia, but no one else sounds quite like this. They have a xylophone! And they’re not afraid to use it.
The rest of this wonderful CD does sound less like a fully-fledged masterpiece and more like a set of demos, though the day I can turn out demos like this is the day I quit the day job and start booking stadiums and interview slots with Jonathan Ross. ‘Hosa’ and the 84 seconds of ‘Out of Tune’ might seem like throwaway sketches but still hold infectious tunes and stupidly high levels of eloquence. They also show the band’s other musical direction, which might be described as ‘Noel Coward on the 76 Bus’.
It’s a lighter, tighter angle on the more vaudevillian side of things that the Libertines used to indulge in, though The Kinks and Blur would be offended not to get a mention too, and their playful spirit may be a better touchstone.
Horsebox are a great London band. To be honest, some of the places they’re singing about have a history of depressing the nuts off me, but these songs make me want to go there and even cast an amber glow on the benighted year I spent living in a semi on the A42.
It’s shambolic dexterity of the highest degree. ‘Here’s to singing out of tune’, he croons and then doesn’t. There’s a rare intelligence and a big soul in these songs.
How good will they be when they make their real recordings?
Written by McLaughlin on