Have Pulled Apart By Horses Nailed the Tricky Second Album with Tough Love?

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Every band has trouble with their second release. Maybe with only underground fame, do they give their fans more of a proven formula, or do they push the boat out a bit further and craft a more diverse, considered album?

Leeds rockers Pulled Apart By Horses are set to release their sophomore record Tough Love on January 20th. The quartet exploded onto the scene in 2010 with their raucous self-titled debut, which contained such delightfully titled tracks as ‘I Punched a Lion in the Throat’ and ‘I’ve Got Guestlist to Rory O’Hara’s Suicide’. Now working with Gil Norton, who has produced Foo Fighters and Pixies material, the band themselves acknowledge that they have grown away from the light-hearted approach and Chili Pepper-style in-jokes that led to the names of those tracks, as well as their lyrical content.

But is this maturation at odds with the band’s distinctive style?

‘V.E.N.O.M.’, the lead track on Tough Love, is as rowdy and irreverent a rock song as anything from their debut album, coupled with the distinctly familiar scream of frontman Tom Hudson. The noisy tone continues throughout the first three tracks until we reach ‘Epic Myth’, which owes a lot to the Southern rock style which has gained popularity in metal recently. Artfully fusing this more understated style with a mounting dose of the band’s signature loudness, this song — which is based on the vintage Italian horror film Suspiria is real evidence of growth by the band.

‘Some Mothers’ comes next: a straightforward old-school punk track. Its lyric about having “my tongue so far in my cheek I can feel it ripping through my skin” is a brilliant advertisement for this record, which is much more self-aware and ironic — a great introduction to the next song ‘Night of the Living’, a cheeseball celebration of horror film culture, as well as to the darker subject matter treated in the penultimate ‘Degeneration Game’, which attempts to explain the summer riots through the prism of a game show.

But the best tracks are a triple whammy of straight-up rock towards the album’s end:  ‘Wildfire, Smoke and Doom’, ‘Bromance Ain’t Dead’ and ‘Give Me a Reason’, which are all catharsis of minor issues that have arisen within the band such as writer’s block and friendships. Album closer ‘Everything Dipped in Gold’, by contrast, is a reflective, bassy track about how far Pulled Apart By Horses have come so far. This is the band signing off with a self-confidence that they have deservedly earned.

Tough Love seems to be the ultimate sophomore effort: enough growth to show off some changes in the band’s sound and influences, with more mature, self-aware subject matter; but they have also woven this seamlessly with the band’s own particular style for which they have garnered so much acclaim over the past two years. Bassist Robert John Lee attributed much of this more mature feel to the attentions of producer Norton, hoping people would see a similar overarching atmosphere in this record to the Pixies’ celebrated surrealist Doolittle and the Foos’ Colour and the Shape.

The entire album is available for streaming via the NME until its release. In more good news for fans of the band among you, the band will be passing through the city centre venue The Cellar (formerly Soul Cellar) on February 22nd as part of their nationwide tour.

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