You can’t accuse Leeds’ Pulled Apart By Horses of ever being predictable. The band’s self-titled debut captured the excitement of the live shows, filled to the brim with freewheeling skirmishes and youthful brio. The follow-up record Tough Love demonstrated the quartet’s song craft, with Tom Hudson’s vocal range being pushed further and James Brown’s guitar sliding into surprising melodic directions.Robert John Lee’s bass lines and Lee Vincent’spercussion have steered the band between surprising time signatures with supreme skill throughout their career.The band’s commitment to the unexpected is at work again in the latest album Blood.
Opener ‘Hot Squash’ is a bold stomper and clapper of a song with skittish changes of tempo, a grinding guitar hook, and a teasingly halting pause that will momentarily confuse those on the dancefloor. There’s some lovely minor chord jangling in ‘ADHD in HD’,which is given weight by resonant tom-tom action and a gutsy, hollered chorus.
In the album’s mid-section a pair of songs identify themselves as big chorus numbers that will surely get crowds singing along when played live. ‘Lizard Baby’ has slack bass notes and wiry, bending guitars. The song explodes into a chorus of, “Attention!”. Fuzzy, bubbling bass and rapid snare hits set up the frantic ‘You Want It’, its chorus being a chant of the title. Just after the album’s halfway point ‘Grim Deal’ pulls everything together: seesawing guitars, fat bass, shouty singalong sections, and an overwhelming sense of ennui: “If I try too hard I’m scared I’ll succeed”.
Elsewhere, the unexpected reigns supreme. ‘Bag of Snakes’ is compact, fast and shouty hardcore. It has a glorious short-fuse energy in the screamed exhalations of its outro.By contrast, the grinding riff intro to ‘Skull Noir’ is as close as Pulled Apart By Horses get to sexy slow dance territory, the track soon veers into an up tempo rock number full of the threats emanating from bitter experience: “I’ll take an eye for an eye”. ‘Medium Rare’ has a strutting funk rhythm, fine vocal harmonies and wry humour: “Like death warmed up you’re a medium rare prime cut”. ‘Golden Monument’ closes things in epic style, with its harmonic extended vowel sounds, a punchy bass drum slow build, and intricately knitted guitar lines. Its drop will no doubt form a spectacular moment in live shows. The track brings closure to Blood with a whole minute of played-as-live reverberating feedback.
Blood marks the next stage in Pulled Apart By Horses’ career: it retains the band’s love of springing surprises by broadening their musical range further. The group’s sense of performance – even on a studio album – also shows no signs of letting up, so there’s an urgent pulse at the heart of every track. Pulled Apart By Horses’ vital signs are thriving. Bloody good. A rhesus positive.
Words: Amanda Penlington