A Sea-Change Within A Sea

June 5, 2009 at 4:27 pm (Gigs, Music) (, , , , )

The HorrorsConcorde2, Brighton04/06/09


It must be pretty difficult to be a lead singer without an instrument.

Guitars almost instantly instil a veneer of cool over pretty much anyone who picks one up, so standing in front of a sweaty and expectant crowd with nothing other than a massive fringe to hide behind must be quite a daunting prospect. Singers have attempted a variety of stances/poses/gimmicks to overcome this issue, and most importantly give them something to do with their hands while performing. From Liam’s stock-still, hands behind the back, chin thrusting defiance, to the outright insanity that Iggy brings to a stage, the great frontmen always find a way of feeling comfortable in their own skin. The rest end up looking like Tom Chaplin.

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

''Shit, what do I do with these things?'

Faris Badwan may not have reached the upper echelons of greatness as a frontman just yet, but there are signs that he and his band are taking increasingly large steps in that direction. That The Horrors are even being whispered about in this vein will come as a big surprise to those who (incorrectly) wrote the band off as a bunch of over-dressed Shoreditch art-school posers whose talent was inversely proportional to their hype.

Yet the quality of their new material, the darkly atmospheric kraut-gaze of new LP ‘Primary Colours’, has seen critics falling over themselves in a search for new superlatives. As a result, the Concorde2 is full of fans old and new, intrigued to see how their new sound translates live. The make-up of the audience is a fascinating mix in itself. Heavy metal fans clad in Metallica tour t-shirts rub muscular shoulders with a troupe of fragile looking kids done up like a cross between Miss Haversham and Alex DeLarge while down at the front, a posse of what appear to be teenyboppers thcream and thcream until they are thick with each dimming of the lights until their heroes appear.

The Horrors, Brighton

The Horrors, Brighton

Once they do, it is straight down to business as the band launch straight into a feedback driven ‘Mirror’s Image’. Gone is the over the top on-stage theatrics, the scaling of every available wall and, to a large extent, the sartorial over-indulgence that categorised earlier shows. In fact there is very little audience interaction throughout the entire set, other than Faris lamenting Brighton’s seagull problem (‘I tried to have a spot of lunch earlier, but a bird stole it’).  It seems instead that the band have ditched some of the excesses of the past in favour of melting down elements of Neu!, The Jesus and Mary Chain and the entire ‘Nuggets’ compilation and spraying the results over the audience in a vast and complex wall of sound. To be fair they no longer need to rely on kooky wardrobe design or crazy stage antics to cover for a limited set list, and the fact that they are able to engross the crowd with a set made entirely of new material is testament to this.

There remain a few problems however, most notably the quality of the sound which all but blankets out some of their subtler nuances with a clatter of over mic-ed drums and piercing squalls of keyboard. The result is that Badwan struggles at times to make himself heard above the racket behind, especially on the tracks that don’t require much in the way of wide eyed howling. The superb Shangi-La’s ape-ing spoken word breakdown of ‘Who Can Say?’ for instance, is rushed and barely detectable when it should provide the focal point of the song.

However, as the band get into their stride, the arrangements tighten up somewhat, and with their singer providing a compelling focal point amongst the pounding psychedelic lights and incessant motorik throbbing, the whole experience becomes increasingly seductive. Coming across as a deranged cross between Syd Barrett and Robert Smith, Badwan stands, arms aloft at the front of the stage in a Canute-like attempt to control, or at least rise against, the crashing seas of light and noise behind him. Only in the fog of the Spacemen3 style ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ does he look a little lost, a high priest of desolation collapsing uncomfortably into a passable impersonation of a insolent toddler. But for the most part he owns the stage brilliantly, and no longer looks desperate to hide away behind his impressive mass of hair, or go charging off into the relative anonymity of the crowd.

The band storm through a hyperkinetic ‘New Ice Age’, with Faris’ cries (‘THE AGONY!!!’) reverberating round the venue, and driving those at the front into a pulsating shoal of sharpened limbs and thrashing necks. A beautiful, note perfect ‘Sea Within a Sea’ ends the show on wave after wave of blissful, undulating keyboard riffs that see the band off into the wings, before the crowd demands their reappearance for an encore.


With a nod to their older fans, and a malevolent glint in his eye, Badwan launches into a power trio of hysterical, Cramps style gothic punk favourites from the first album, starting with a joyous, bouncing ‘Count in Fives’ that sees the front rows completely lose the plot. The largely spoken word ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ elicits a similar response, before the classic riff of ‘Gloves’ builds to a suitably chaotic finish.

And with that, they are gone. Another test successfully passed along the road to fulfilling some of that early hype, and, one hopes, towards the emergence of the first truly captivating British frontmen to appear since a certain Pete Doherty.

Originally published in the Brighton Magazine

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