Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses have been marrying myriad elements of indie rock, post-hardcore, stoner rock, experimental rock and desert rock since their self-titled debut album, released on Transgressive Records in 2010. The four-piece’s third and previous album, Blood, was arguably their breakout record, with numerous music publications praising the album’s upfront attitude and the group’s bare-faced rock performances. This being said, Blood exhibited limited changes to the band’s style, with their discography thus far largely seeing them continue to hone their eclectic approach to rock music and, indeed, this is what continues onto Pulled Apart By Horses’ latest record, The Haze. Despite the group’s persistence in pursuing a distinct blend of various genres under the rock umbrella, the time between their third and fourth albums has seen some significant changes, most notably in the form of the band’s founding drummer, Lee Vincent, parting ways with his bandmates, later being replaced by Tommy Davidson. What’s more, not only have Pulled Apart By Horses departed on their biggest tour during this time, they have also taken refuge in a reclusive dairy farm in Wales, as a means of taking time off from the onerous rock lifestyle to record some new music with clear heads. Indeed, as someone who personally enjoyed some of their previous output, but nevertheless found it to be lacking in artistic scope and a definitive musical identity for the band, the time taken to ruminate over their newest material shows, and has proven to be relatively successful in advancing their rock stylings to incorporate their broad influences in a more discernible format. Whilst there nonetheless remains further room for Pulled Apart By Horses to craft a more distinctive place within the contemporary UK rock scene, The Haze, at the very least, improves upon the band’s previous releases, with the end product being largely successful in pulling in the listener with a selection of competently written, enthusiastically performed rock tracks.
The opening title track conveys the overarching formula that recurs across many of the songs on The Haze, whilst also detailing Pulled Apart By Horses’ usual eclectic rock stylings. Following the gentle ambiance of the introduction, frontman Tom Hudson bursts in with his usual energetic, punk-tinged yells, accompanied by a surf rock-inspired chord progression. As the fuzzed out guitars and driving bass line kick in, with some mid-paced grooves perfect for head-bobbing, the band’s sound is incredibly evocative of some of the most notable names in American garage rock currently, with Ty Segall in particular coming to mind, especially when considering Hudson’s vocal inflection. What’s more, the loose jam that the song devolves into around the middle section is reminiscent of much of Segall’s work, whilst also bringing to mind bands like Parquet Courts, to an extent. Although this opening track is perhaps a bit too suggestive of other artists for its own good, it summarises the appeal of Pulled Apart By Horses, with high-energy rock jams permeating the verse sections before the band comes together with more composure for a catchy chorus section. This is exhibited to an even greater extent on the following track, The Big What If, which sees the group come through with a memorable main guitar melody that is made all the more infectious by the punctuated crash-snare combos. This track also boasts one of the more indelible vocal performances on the album, with some great melodies cutting through Hudson’s shouts, whilst the well-assembled vocal harmonies employed on this song provide a slight breather from the singer’s boisterous outbursts. All this being said, although there is a lot to admire in the high-octane vigour of songs such as these on The Haze, it’s also easy to get the impression that the appeal of such tracks is a bit too prominently hinged on these exuberant performances, with the songwriting blueprint often being largely the same, which can arguably reduce the forcefulness of some of these songs at times. Furthermore, there are a handful of cuts that boast some fantastic lead riffs, with Prince Of Meats coming first and foremost to mind, but follow a rather rudimentary song structure as to not completely flesh out what could have been developed into a much stronger song. Then again, whilst this may be a concern arising from a close analysis of this project, if one were to take Pulled Apart By Horses on these songs at face value, it’s easy to get sucked in by the band’s authentic intensity and punchy performances.
It has to be said, however, that what holds many of the bold and spirited songs on The Haze back from leaving a really strong impression on the listener is a sense of familiarity. Indeed, although Pulled Apart By Horses may pull from many of rock music’s derivative genres, this has yet to translate into a distinctly unique sound for the band. A song like Hotel Motivation, for instance, which features some perfectly passionate performances and accomplished songwriting, nevertheless feels somewhat trite as a result of how overtly suggestive it is of other artists, or even specific songs, of a similar vein. As an example, the stabbed guitar chords on this track are incredibly evocative of songs by other British indie artists, such as Chelsea Dagger by The Fratellis or Fit But You Know It by The Streets. Of course, it’s not as if Pulled Apart By Horses do these common stylings no justice, as Hudson’s garage punk-esque cries are performed with a healthy amount of vigour, and the clean backing vocals over the chorus provide a nice touch of light and shade between the two contrasting singing styles. Moreover, with the production on much of The Haze accompanying the group’s stylings highly effectively, this is displayed particularly well on Hotel Motivation, with the mix providing much of the punch that the staccato guitars deliver, whilst also leaving enough room for the occasional flourishes that appear here and there to shine through. Plus, considering the diverse stylings brought to the table by Pulled Apart By Horses on this record, the production value proves itself to be rather versatile in how well it consistently complements the group, with everything from the Link Wray-influenced warbling, distorted tremolo effect of one of the guitars on Dumb Fun to the squealing feedback on Moonbather being incorporated in a way that highlights these niches without having them overpower the entire cut. This quality of production chops, along with the band’s bare-faced fervour, crafts a sound that, although not necessarily particularly refreshing, is certainly rather captivating.
Overall, whilst The Haze is minimal in the degree to which it distinguishes Pulled Apart By Horses from other alternative rock bands working within a similar paradigm, it nonetheless furthers the band’s foray into honing their eclectic stylings, with the end product being, at the very least, rather enjoyable to listen to. Indeed, many of the songs that appear on this record convey the raw energy of a small, intimate gig, and the intense vigour displayed by the band here suggests that they would likely be incredibly entertaining live, particularly thanks to Hudson’s impassioned vocal performances, which are so contagious at times as to surely see the whole crowd shouting along with him. Ultimately, this is the vibe I get from Pulled Apart By Horses; they seem like one of those rock bands who would put on a remarkably dynamic show that is thoroughly enjoyable more as a result of the energy that they emit, rather than the music that they are playing. Of course, that’s not to gloss over the fact that the music on The Haze is very good during its best moments, but the album’s great successes arise more from the performances, especially when accompanied by the solid production value. Therefore, although Pulled Apart By Horses have displayed room for improvement as far as establishing a unique place in the English alt-rock scene for themselves goes, The Haze nevertheless has a lot going for it that would get the blood of most rock fans pumping.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7/10