Live Review

The Horrors, York Hall, London

They still manage to retain the theatrical, scuzzy raucousness that is their trademark.

The Horrors first album, ‘Strange House’, with its chaotic, dramatic and gothic sensibilities and equally animated live shows, managed to split opinion - accused of having a gimmicky image with their contrived theatrical fashion styling and distracting, perhaps, from the music. Any doubts were swiftly cast aside with the arrival of ‘Primary Colours’ - critically acclaimed, explorative, yet safe. ‘Primary Colours’ and side projects later, The Horrors turned to work on their third album, ‘Skying’, due for release next month.

Playing to a rather muted crowd in East London’s York Hall, support act Toy have just finished their set and perhaps fail in garnering enthusiasm or whip some energy into the audience on a drizzly, dreary Friday evening. Finally, though, Faris and his cohorts take to the stage, as usual clad in black. As they plough into opener, ‘Changing the Rain’ is an indication of the band’s direction, with an 80s feel - anthemic and infectious, it becomes an apparent theme throughout the course of the gig. Faris’s baritone vocals have a rich hollow fill, rightly suited to the mood and veering away from the screams and yelps favoured in their earlier offerings. Embedded between whirly synths, varying tempo, guitar, driven in drums and percussion, the multi layers are apparent and all components complementing each other effortlessly.

In a dramatic light, multicoloured strobes onstage allowed scope for a different kind of drama while Faris & co. stand as silhouettes against the shifting lights, always changing and pulsating to the rhythmic, energetic set. The Horrors like their music rough around the edges and no song is an exception. The noisy danceable nature of their sound means that one finds themselves moving quite happily to newer, lesser known songs almost instantly. ‘Sea Within A Sea’ never fails to impress live, sounding like the album version’s dirtier cousin. New song ‘Still Life’ has already caught on and looks set to become a firm favourite with its sweeping synths and chant-like qualities. The new material hasn’t strayed too far from the virtues of ‘Primary’ Colours, but the band have evolved their sound enough to warrant a fresh look in to what looks set to be another successful, well received album.

In such a setting, it would have been quite fitting to play the likes of ‘Jack the Ripper’ but The Horrors decided to stay away from any material from ‘Strange House’, an understandable, yet somehow disappointing move. Despite this, however, they still manage to retain the theatrical, scuzzy raucousness that is their trademark. The album recordings may not do the songs justice – The Horrors make music to be listened to live, and this is how they should be heard.

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