The Horrors – x2
by Jill and Jo
24th March – Manchester Club Academy
Looks like it’s pretty much OK to come out of the Goth closet these days. I mean, everybody’s at it. There’s a plethora of Nu-Goth bands, while the old ones are hitting the live circuit again. You can’t even switch on the TV without Russell Brand popping up sooner or later. Judging by the largely teenage crowd here tonight, everyone’s had a good rummage through the Romantic Victorian dressing up box – it’s all winklepickers and velveteen smoking jackets as far as the eye can see. And it’s good to see old faithful Insette doing such a roaring trade in their Spikey hairspray again. I certainly don’t have a problem with all of this. I don’t really have a problem with the Horrors’ spectacular debut album ‘Strange House’. It’s just that there is something niggling me, and to get to the root of it, we’ll have to look back in time, just like they do on ‘Lost’.
About 20 years ago, I lived in Liverpool, and while I was there one of my friends had his house broken into and his entire assortment of indie and goth vinyl looted. To cut a long story short, the thief was swiftly grassed up by his fed-up neighbours, and my friend was able to retrieve his complete collection from a nearby second-hand shop. Now imagine such a scenario occurring in Southend, the seaside resort for people who really, really like silt. And let’s say that the album collection remained unrecovered, languishing in that dusty backstreet emporium for two decades, until one day a lanky, fresh-faced teen stumbled upon it and bought it up in its entirety, took it home, listened to it, all the way through, from Alien Sex Fiend to Zodiac Mindwarp, then, with these newly unearthed sounds still ringing in his ears, formed a band which had lazy, goldfish-memoried music hacks sitting up on their haunches and declaring Faris Badwan – for ’tis he – to be the saviour of the British Music Scene.
This, then, is my problem with The Horrors. The best new band in Britain? No, I don’t think so. To me they sound and look like they have been carefully bolted together from a Build-Your-Own-Goth-Band construction kit. A pinch of Bauhaus, a dash of Gene Loves Jezebel, a large slice of the Birthday Party, a hefty spoonful of The Cramps…well, I’m sure you get it. Original they are not. And while I admit that all music is derivative, and applaud The Horrors for giving the Britpop scene the shake-up that it currently needs, there are worrying signs that they are starting believe their own hype.
The crowd are happy to buy it all though. There’s a restless anticipation hanging over the room in the minutes before the band finally make the stage, with fans already powering their way to the front. A lengthy howl of feedback and the inevitable clouds of smoke herald their arrival, and the place erupts to the angry slashes of ‘Jack The Ripper’. Beer flies, and bodies soar over bodies; a continuous torrent of crowdsurfers, who are pulled into the pit by overwrought bouncers then force their way back into the throng to do it all over again. With the rest of the band hunched up behind him on the cramped, low-ceilinged stage, it’s very much the Faris show: Faris writhes, Faris howls, Faris stalks, Faris swings from the lighting bars, Faris plays kittenishly with some tangled red wool, in fact Faris looms over all like an etiolated Robert Smith and has everyone eating out of his spindly hand, whether barking out the lyrics to ‘Count In Fives’ or mumbling incoherently between songs.
Ah, the songs. There’s the thing. Horrors tracks are brutal short psychedelic punches of noise, rage and pain, and of the ones in evidence tonight I counted seven. Largely drawn from the album, with the welcome inclusion of a glorious ‘Crawdaddy Simone’, the set does not even amount to half an hour. If you’re going to pull that sort of stunt, you need to be offering something pretty special. You need to be as jawdroppingly startling as the Sex Pistols. I’ve seen an early Jesus And Mary Chain do it as well, and emerge as heroes. The Horrors are just not extraordinary enough to get away with it. There’s an air of disbelief as it becomes apparent that the band are not going to return to the stage and it takes a while for the crowd to start to drift towards the exits. I daresay that the most disappointed are those who had previously seen them play sets lasting twice as long. It had the potential to be a great gig. It wasn’t. While they probably didn’t lose any fans, I doubt they gained many new ones. It takes more than big hair and skinny jeans to change the musical landscape, no matter how much media attention you get. I just hope that The Horrors don’t learn this lesson the hard way.
Second round.. 3nd April – Norwich Waterfront.
This was not the goth revival convention described above – in fact, i didn’t see some of the usual faces one comes across at these events. Mixed crowd. Excitable teenagers, the curious, a tiny smattering of goths and one or two that really should have known better than to go out looking like that at their age.
Yeah. This ain’t the saviour of goth, even if it is kicking arse. It’s all derived as Jill described, but with a little bit of vaudeville and burlesque in there. It reminded me of certain Christian Death eras in parts, but my partner in crime didn’t agree. I think it was emotional response rather than reality.
Emotional response – I think i have it! This was a pretty good gig. I haven’t felt so involved with one for a while, to the extent that I felt moved to go and mosh. It lasted longer than half an hour, because I watched from the back for a while before heading off. No banter, apart from mutterings from Faris about a fight in the crowd. There was music, strobe hit stage, the strange gyrations of a goth cabaret. Good strong hairspray! Keyboards never left alone, Mr Webb looking very dapper and not afraid to jig about in a most unkeyboardist manner, which is all to the good. Couldn’t see much of the others apart from and explosion of hair over on the left, and a back. Faris though was much in evidence, as Jill said. I think this touched all of my decades old goth nerves, set them atingling, and gave me a rocking good time. It was fun. Noisy, moshy, bloody odd and not for the fainthearted. Lovely nostalgic stuff. I feel for the pipes running across the ceiling. Faris used them as a set of symmetric bars, gripping them with had and knees while singing and having his shirt pulled. Dangling face down into a frenzied crowd is slightly foolhardy – but not as much as coming down into them. He’s no sylph! The rest of the band left the stage quietly, leaving feedback, while he extricated himself after the song ended. Took a while, but he left without another word.
We didn’t get an encore either, in fact we were out by 10, a most unseemly hour.
Still, the moon was very big and bright outside..