The success of Pulled Apart By Horses’ debut in 2010 was down to it being a gung-ho rock LP that revelled in its not-entirely-serious nature, and their constant touring in support of it. In consequence it feels like they’ve been living on the road for the best part of the last four years. Somehow they’ve produced their sophomore effort, Tough Love, on their rare days of not being stuck on a motorway between shows.
It proves to be an exercise in brevity for the Leeds quartet – 32 minutes in total across 11 tracks – but once again they manage to cram in a lot in to the running time. What’s more, if the first LP felt like the equivalent of them playing at a house party, this time they’re moving up to a proper rock show, with proper rock songs.
The best moments are when they try out new ideas. Night Of The Living has not one but two breakdowns – the first is bouncy and energetic, whilst the second, towards the end, feels a lot more sinister. Lead single V.E.N.O.M, which had been tested on the road throughout 2011, starts off reasonably familiar with a strong chorus before slowing itself right down, taking a breather to gather its bearings and then powering along at breakneck speed once again.
Elsewhere, influences are more diverse. Epic Myth sounds a bit like the Pixies with extra muscle – and Gil Norton, producer of many of that band’s great albums, was behind the mixing desk for Tough Love. The angst of Give Me A Reason is slightly remeniscent of Queens Of The Stone Age at their heaviest, whilst Shake Off The Curse is remarkably similar to Future Of The Left track Wrigley Scott – this is not a bad thing.
There are also plenty of reminders as to why Pulled Apart By Horses became successful in the first place, albeit with a slightly bigger sound. Wolf Hand has a turbo-charged Thin Lizzy-esque riff that powers the song along and is one of the strongest numbers on the album, whilst Wildfire, Smoke & Doom is unspectacular, save for some unexpected flange effects towards the end, yet it’s a crowd-pleaser in some respects. Final track Everything Dipped In Gold ends the record as it starts – a four-minute dose of urgency that’s clearly been written for the live environment.
This all adds up to plenty of proof that, despite rock not being in favour with the music-buying masses, there’s still some real excitement to be found in the genre. Enough new tricks are thrown in to ensure that it doesn’t end up sounding like the second part of their eponymous debut; even though that was a lot of fun. Instead, these songs feel a lot more substantial, yet it’s still heavy and uncompromising. In short, Tough Love is exactly the kind of second album you would want from Pulled Apart By Horses.