While there are undoubtedly some pairings in music that seem made for eachother, you often find that it’s the least likely match-ups which prove to be the most interesting. Nas with Damien Marley, Shane McGowan with Kirsty McColl and Robert Plant with Alison Krauss are among the unlikely successes which initially spring to my mind, and this year’s Faris Badwan and Rachel Zeffira pairing can also be added to that list. This is a hook-up which is so unorthadox due to the widely different stylings of the pair - Badwan is the gangly frontman of noisy British art-punks The Horrors, while Zeffira is a classically trained Canadian vocalist, - but these approaches interact wonderfully on this, the duo’s debut full-length.
Indeed, it’s the stark contrast between the pair which is largely responsible for making their 60's retro-pop such an enjoyable listen. All the way through, it’s deep dark and dingy vs. sweet, streamlined and sexy, but these characteristics always work to compliment eachother rather than compete. When they go their separate ways, the results vary predictably, but one thing that each and every track has in common is that it’s the voices of it’s creators which are at the forefront, with the instrumentals invariably taking the backseat. The industrial drones on "Sooner Or Later," for instance, do a great job in enhancing the song’s tense and grim atmosphere, but it’s Badwan’s doomy drawl which proves the centerpiece of the track. The same is true of the songs which hold Zeffira’s vocal, though her seductive purr on the likes of "The Best Person I Know" bring about a far more pleasant and soothing sensation.
The best moments here, however, tend to come when the duo join forces, such as on the opening title track, and clear highlight "Face In The Crowd." On tracks such as these, Badwan’s husky verses blend wonderfully with Zeffira’s smooth choruses, creating a sound that’s intensely likeable, infectious and occasionally touching. The latter is especially true on "The Lull," where the pair mix seamlessly on a wonderful romantic ballad which significantly beats most of their efforts while going alone.
Given that their styles are so different, it is perhaps inevitable that the record as a whole isn’t particularly cohesive, though in truth this is only a minor issue which does little to dim the impact of it’s material. In fact, the most disappointing thing with this album is that there’s not more of it. Clocking in at a meagre twenty-six minutes, the record is surprisingly brief – even considering that it was perhaps a little rushed with it being a side-project. This short duration isn’t without it’s positives, as the record’s appeal simply doesn’t get the chance to wear thin, but given that what there is proves wholly enjoyable you can’t help but feel a little undernourished come it’s premature conclusion.
Whether we will be treated to more remains open to debate, since the pair have yet to confirm whether this is simply a one-off potshot or an ongoing project. However, the fact that The Horrors fanbase continues to grow rapidly and that this debut proves such an appealing proposition means that demand for a follow-up shouldn’t be in short supply. They may seem an odd couple, but Badwan and Zeffira’s collaboration surpasses all expectations, yet still gives of a sense of further potential which is yet to be fulfilled. Let’s hope that they share this sense, as there’s no reason why they can’t hook-up again in the future and expand on a project which at the moment sounds like unfinished business.
You can buy the album, as well as download Not A Friend for free on the band’s website
1. Cat’s Eyes
2. You’re The Best Person I Know
3. I’m Not Stupid
4. Face In The Crowd
5. Not A Friend
7. Sooner Or Later
8. The Lull
9. Over You
10. I Knew It Was Over