Be fair. Haven’t the Japanese got a reputation for being wildly manic and vocal at gigs? The phrase “big in Japan” has become synonymous with the notion that no matter how unpopular a band becomes, they will always have diehard fans in the Far East. Anyway, I digress. Myself and two friends went to see The Horrors last night, at Bethnal Green’s Rich Mix theatre/cinema complex. It was a bizarrely pristine venue that had the air of a record company shindig, and the audience who attended only succeeding in cementing that feeling. Amongst the plaid shirts, ironic knitwear and drainpipes one could pick out singer and performance artist No Bra, members of the Klaxons and S.C.U.M., as well as a rumour that Damon Albarn himself was in the audience.
Before I begin to delve into the band’s performance, a small point about their audience. Is it really necessary for everyone who lives in East London/frequents the nightlife there to look at me as if I’ve crapped myself? Look, myself and the two aforementioned friends were dressed pretty snappily, so it can’t have been a fashion related faux pas. Apparently smiling isn’t allowed when one passes by Liverpool Street, as every time I cracked a grin at something one of my companions had said, I was frowned upon by others, as if I’d just set a flag of Stalin alight whilst in the Gulag. I’m not going to pretend to be interested in these people’s projects, bands, dogs, whatever. It’s just that when someone whose studio flat in Dalston is quite clearly trust funded by Momma and Papa has got the gall to turn his or hers nose up at me, it’s galling that’s all. Oh well. Rant over. Back to the music, man.
Not knowing the names of the new songs forces me to review the gig as an overall performance. Only playing two songs from their previous album, Strange House, they instead focused on new tracks. When they did play Count In Fives, it not only contained an immediacy that was sadly missing from many of the new songs, but also jarred quite awkwardly with the rest of the setlist, as did Sheena Is A Parasite. All that said, I did thoroughly enjoy the new material, though I think the name of the band is now no longer particularly appropriate, both in terms of stage presence (all members of the band, even to some extent, Faris, stood stock still as if it was an Oasis gig) as well sonically. The soundscapes being formed are much more complex than they ever were on Strange House, and the subtlety with which particular passages of music are executed can’t help but be admired. A lot of the songs brought to mind some of Joy Division’s more escapist and ambient work, something which I thought was showcased in set closer and new single, Sea Within A Sea.
On the train home, I queued up Public Enemy on my iPod. As Chuck D ranted and raved about the government, I thought of the contrast between them and The Horrors. Here is a seminal band, one which struck a chord with a generation, and whose witticisms, lyrical ability and production still sound fresh today. I would argue that The Horrors don’t have this same aura…yet. For anyone reading this and shouting “How can you compare Flavor Flav to art rock from London”. Well, you can. Besides the two genres of music being worlds apart, the impact each band has on a listener can quite clearly be measured. As they’re only a mere two albums in, we’ll forgive Faris & Co. They’re not quite there yet, but I have the feeling that they’re beginning to come into their own, and possibly develop a sound which is more unique and can be attributed directly to them.
Jolly good show.