Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Horrors, Rescue Rooms

So to the reinvention of the year. When The Horrors unveiled 'Sea Within a Sea' back in March I think it came as a bit of a shock to everyone. They then went on to deal with that difficult second album problem by ripping up the blueprint for the first one and starting over again. Two years on from 'Strange House', out goes the gothic dress sense, the haircuts and most of their garage rock sound. I wasn’t over stuck on their goth parody or whatever it was and that's from a someone who grew up with that genre and thoroughly enjoyed it. Instead, in comes moody shoegaze style indie with added random bits. They’ve got Portishead's Geoff Barrow twiddling the knobs and he’s clearly having an impact but they’ve also taken on board a whole basket of other influences from other bands.

Talking of Geoff Barrow I wonder if he had any influence over tonight’s choice of support band because HTRK seem to be Portishead wannabes, although they don’t list them in their own list of influences. Formerly known as hTRKRTIO they now prefer to be known by the shortened version which I think is pronounced ‘Hate Rock’. It’s all very doom laden and their singer Jonnine Davis is probably the most miserable female I’ve seen in, well hours. She bangs the drum, as they say, just the one drum, repeatedly. Not bad though, although a bit repetitive.



We got practically nothing out of Gary Numan last night, chat wise, less than nothing out of HTRK and I imagine we’ll get little out of Faris Badwan of The Horrors either. I am not wrong. First though we have to put up with the worst backing track I have ever heard a band come on to, or not come on to in the Horrors case. It goes on and on, for a full seven minutes, yes I was timing it. You can recreate the noise yourself, it’s that sound when you leave something on your computer keyboard and you get that repetitive keyboard squeal, only they’ve amplified it by about 4000% percent. I’m surprise it didn’t clear the room, it was akin to someone scratching their nails down a blackboard for seven minutes. This too I feel must be a Geoff Barrow-ism and a quick check on his current band Beak afterwards, reveals similar masterpieces, so I think that’s where it came from.

Finally they take the stage, putting a stop to the annoying squeal and kick off into the sultry ‘Mirror’s Image’. All wonderful swirling guitars and hypnotic drumming but at first we can’t hear Faris’s vocals. Gradually they get it sorted and soon we can actually hear the man sing. We can almost see him as well, a dark figure among the smoke and the coloured lights, all of which means my photos are going to be even worse than usual.

The Horrors reinvention means that they now sound like any number of dark ‘n’ moody bands and often all at the same time. It is though, all wonderful. After all, it's not really about who your influences are and The Horrors certainly don't try to hide theirs, it’s what you do with them that count and this is where The Horrors excel, producing, in my mind, probably the best album of the year and who'd have thought out of Southend too.

Last night we got the ‘Pleasure Principle’ in order, tonight I wonder if we're going to get ‘Primary Colours’ in order too as a grunged up version of 'Three Decades', that I’m not sure was actually necessary, follows. It blurs the line between new Horrors and old Horrors, so now you can see how the band metamorphosed between their two albums. Then though the title track of ‘Primary Colours’ is thrown in early to break the sequence. All the same it's pretty much that album that we get in the main set with only 'Do You Remember' omitted.



'New Ice Age' is also beefed up, turning itself into quite a monster with Faris doing a passable 'John Lydon' impression as he barks the vocals at us. Then it’s back to the more dramatic, complex sound that makes the album so good with the simply wonderful ‘Scarlet Fields’. In my opinion there are early OMD keyboards all over this track, whilst the following track, the more plodding 'I Only Think Of You', is so like OMD’s 'Romance of the Telescope' it's untrue. Faris howls at us in anguish and you instantly see where the Ian Curtis comparisons come from.

The only none ‘Primary Colours’ track to get aired in the main set is ‘Whole New Way’ and even that was one of the bonus tracks on the Japanese only version of the album. The song has now been reworked and is out as a single. It’s almost disco.

Then cue the intro of the year, that thumping bass, those drums and then wait for it... 15 seconds in those OMD keyboards again. The sublime 'Who Can Say', it rocks and we all rock ‘n’ sob along with it. The anti-love song of the year by a mile and believe me I study these things. Go on mate you know it's over, twist that knife.

'And when I told her I didn't love her anymore, She cried.' Ah.
'And when I told her, her kisses were not like before, She cried.' Oooh.
'And when I told her another girl had caught my eye, She cried.' Oh dear.
'And I kissed her, with a kiss that could only mean goodbye.' Merciless bastard, I love it.

Go on girl, you've been told, now 'Get away, Get away, Get away'



I almost suggested a spot down the front tonight as I thought perhaps it would be quite restrained down there but no it’s a seething mass. So I’m glad we arrived early and grabbed a terrific spot right above the band on the balcony. Despite that it's quite a mixed crowd tonight and not just the youngsters I had expected.

Faris is now teetering on the edge of stage and a one point seems to fall in to the crowd but quickly and with great athleticism manages to bounce himself back up off the crowd barrier before anyone in the crowd or security can grab him.

Finally the eight minute epic 'Sea Within A Sea', closes the set in majestic style before with as few a words as possible Faris exits stage left and the rest of the band follow him.

They return to encore with a cover of Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’ before playing a trio of old singles which provides some serious limb hurling opportunities down the front. ‘Count In Fives’ actually blends really well with a lot of the Primary Colours stuff, ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ not quite so. The total gothness of ‘Gloves’ falls somewhere in between and brings proceedings to a slightly chaotic close.

Can they take it on from here? Who can say?

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