4th June 2009
The Horrors (w/ support from Factory Floor and Disconcerts)
Like a steady drip of mascara running down the plughole, they are converging. A mass of hairspray, pointy shoes and crushed black velvet, trickling inexorably south and east through the city of Brighton, to the doors of the Concorde 2. It’s eight in the evening on a bright summer’s night. The sun is still up, but something is awry. Among the picnicking families and sunbathing couples, they are there, everpresent, a steady tide heading east of the pier. There are scene kids on the beach. The Horrors are in town.
I must confess I never really knew what to make of the Horrors. I’ve never been one of those people to shun a band just for having the temerity to dress up – for if David Bowie, Siouxsie Sioux and Nicky Wire have taught us anything (and they have), it is that outrageous sartorial posturing is an integral part of the (leopard print) fabric of rock and roll. So what if they got an outrageous springboard into the British music press before they’d even released their first single? The band can hardly be blamed for the hyperactive hype machine that is our music industry. If anything they are to be admired for playing the system to their advantage.
What really matters, as always, is the tunes. Alright, so the ghost-train punk, Cramps stylings of their debut Strange House were hardly befitting any ‘saviours of British rock music’ tag that the Horrors were afforded, but the material they were producing was a damn sight more interesting than the Kooks of this world, and there was always an indication that they might have what it takes to justify at least some of the presumptuous fanfare. With their sophomore effort, overseen by the capable hands of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, they seem to have done just that, with a leftfield turn into post punk and krautrock inspired territory that illustrates a desire in the band for a bit less style and a bit more substance.
The support acts for tonight’s show are wholly representative of that shift. Openers Disconcerts do the whole ramalama angular punk riffs thing with unbridled energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately they are also pretty terrible, showing that producing two-minute bursts of abrasive noise is actually an art form that is harder than it looks. They were followed by Factory Floor, who opted for the more ominous industrial approach, building gradual crescendos over creeping bass grooves. Both represent an element of the Horrors’ back catalogue, but neither manage to do it quite as well as the headliners, although Factory Floor at least possess some of that trademark theatricality.
When the Horrors arrived it was to universal high-pitched myspace screams, proving that you can do what you like with the music as long as you still have those totally dreamy goth boys up on stage to make the tweenagers swoon. Relatively dressed down in an array of snappy black and white variations, they played a set almost entirely comprised of material from new album Primary Colours, only raiding the older stuff for the breathless encore of ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’ and ‘Count In Fives’. The standout was the less than obvious single ‘Sea Within A Sea’, eight minutes of pure Joy Division note-taking, interrupted by the sudden thrill halfway through of a neatly arpeggiated synth line that grew in stature until it consumed all before it. Whether they’re playing the old or the new, it is this intensity that is the common thread throughout their performance, and when the music swells, it is tough not to be drawn in by its impetuous volume. This is not to say that this was a perfect gig, far from it, but in live music, atmosphere is all, and the Horrors have that, at least, in spades.