The Horrors - O2 ABC, Glasgow, Tue 15 May, 2012
Charming and mesmerising set that avoids sharp pop aesthetic
For Essex boys The Horrors, surely redemption has arrived at last. Yes, there were those of us who enjoyed the spooky frightwig garage rock of their debut album Strange House, but it left the sense that here was a band who are overstylised and blessed with just the one attention-grabbing trick. Not many would have given them much chance of prolonged survival, and yet here we are celebrating Skying, a third album recently crowned NME’s best of the year, in a commendably large and fan-filled venue.
The secret, it seems, was simply to expand the scope of their pilfering so it reflects the true breadth and quality of their influences. This was both a striking, emotive show and a blissful walk through the greatest record collection most of their fans have never owned in their lives. As a striking lightshow of strobes and spotlights blazed away in the background, the strident motorway whine of ‘Mirror’s Edge’ roared through the venue, a cross-pollination of My Bloody Valentine and Simple Minds at their most icy and teutonically-influenced.
The theme continued with ‘Who Can Say’, which was delivered by Faris Badwan in a voice reminiscent of Bowie beamed in from Planet Berlin in the 70s. The quintet themselves look like the cast of The Hunger on a night out at Max’s Kansas City, with a hint of 70s Britcop thriller from keyboard player Rhys Webb. His playing buffeted the thrilling shoegaze pop of ‘I Can See Through You’ and the dream-punk of ‘Scarlet Fields’, an anaesthetised analogue of Siouxsie & the Banshees.
Badwan’s barracking of those standing listening near the front to move out of the way and let people who want to jump in – ‘then we’ll all be a lot happier’ – was uncharacteristic, but then the heroes they emulate were all similarly uncompromising. Besides, the very next song was one of the loudest and most animated, with ‘Endless Blue’ offering a swooning ambient false start and then a riff-heavy charge reminiscent of early Manics.
Throughout their 80-minute set, what charmed and mesmerised was both the fact they represent their many influences so faithfully and their lack of avoidance of a sharp pop aesthetic. From the careening krautrock of ‘Sea Within a Sea’ to the once-more Simple Minds echoing ‘Still Life’, the snotty, Suede-like dream-pop of ‘Monica Gems’ and the breathtaking Neu! drone of ‘Moving Further Away’, this is music to spark the emotions and live in the heart. Played before 50 people in a club basement or headlining Glastonbury, it would still resonate noisily.