The Horrors open for the Kills on Tuesday, May 19, at 8 p.m., $22.50; www.livenation.com.
Whereas 2007's Strange House found the Horrors meeting the Cramps and the Ramones halfway while singing about Jack the Ripper, its follow-up finds the English youngsters trading in their scrappy verve for atmospheric brooding. Here the Horrors look for inspiration from Suicide, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine — making every track sound familiar, while Faris Badwan's vocals are routinely informed by Ian Curtis. So does all this make the Horrors a pack of bratty pretenders, or simply put them next in line after Interpol to carry on Joy Division's legacy? It's hard to tell, because as unoriginal as this record gets, its mood swings are awfully catchy.
The group enlisted production help from Portishead's Geoff Barrow, among others, and several songs include mind-bending fits of vintage synths and guitar effects. Amid so much moping, "Scarlet Fields" and "I Can't Control Myself" sound rubbery and alive. In contrast, the eight-minute exploration "Sea Within a Sea" has an ear-tickling procession of synth melodies. It's the most ambient, unrushed single from a British band since Radiohead's "Pyramid Song."
If the Horrors' first album was the soundtrack to all the murderous bits of a slasher film, this funereal follow-up would be well-suited to accompany the long, unnerving aftermath. No matter the cinematic allusions, though, it remains difficult to get over how derivative the Horrors have become.