The Horrors at Brixton Academy
Ah, The Horrors. Mercury-nominated darlings of the fickle British music scene, obsessive musical hoarders (and borrowers) and almost, but not quite, mainstream. Yesterday saw the skinny-jeaned songsters out and about in Brixton, playing their new album Skying in their first headline show at the venue.
The Horrors are getting bigger, better and more self-assured with each album. In 2007, Strange House was either anarchic or unfinished, depending on your taste (I’m for the former). Primary Colours was a tauter, ambitious reinvention, with a move to catchy synth licks and polished vocals that won over a new audience. While I am not entirely sure that Skying can match that album for standout moments, it is a very accomplished piece of work, so I was looking forward to seeing what they could do with it onstage.
Brixton Academy is a good sized venue for a good sized band. Unfortunately, the three support acts weren’t quite up to the task of keeping the attention of the whole place and by The Horrors’ entrance the crowd was getting pretty twitchy. Fortunately, a bombastic opening wiped away any lingering restlessness with a welcome, ambitious urgency and energy. This was a band with something to prove and they largely did so. It was pleasing to hear drummer Joe Spurgeon and bassist Rhys Webb letting rip, while frontman Faris Badwan channelled the controlled, powerful tones of Echo And The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.
The blend of powerful synth and guitar riffs were reminiscent of and occasionally surpassed everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Simple Minds. Gone were the props and elaborate costumes of the early days, but not the vigour. By the third track, I Can See Through You, the audience had woken up and were singing along. It’s one of their catchier numbers and was coupled with trippy, almost club night lighting. By the end of the track even the most rooted of beer drinkers in the circle had gotten up and were dancing.
If the production levels of the latest album verge on excessive, then the live show produced a purer, unrestrained wall of noise. Still Life, in particular, benefitted from being punchier and more visceral than its studio version. This was a band on a mission, and the song’s lines “when you wake up you will find me” were shouted out by Faris as a statement of intent. The Horrors, it seems, are here to stay.
The show ended with a minor blip; as The Horrors have gotten bigger, their songs have become longer and the encore of Moving Further Away, while ambitious, did not quite justify its near ten-minute length. Still, their impressive performance skills, danceable synth licks and almost-but-not-quite anthemic melodies should make them a popular part of the festival scene. The boys from Southend have a busy summer ahead of them, appearing at pretty well all of the major UK festivals. They are not to be missed if you get the chance.