The Horrors make music that is like a great creature. It’s a creature with long, spindly tentacles that stretch and probe, reaching out and feeling their way. It’s a creature that twists and unfurls, shifting shape from minute to minute, morphing into new forms as it pleases. It breathes and it shivers, it grows and it shrinks. On record, this creature is vacuum-packed, but in a live setting, it roams free.
In Brighton’s Attenborough Centre, The Horrors allow their kaleidoscopic art rock to unfold. Opening the set with ‘Hologram’, the first track of their latest LP V, the Southend five piece play a mix of new and old songs, though unsurprisingly, nothing from debut record Strange House, despite an eager fan repeatedly requesting ‘Jack The Ripper’. But the Horrors of today are very different from The Horrors of 2007. Once a shambolic, post-punk garage band, they’ve evolved into an artful neo-psychedelica outfit, something that’s reflected in their colourful but polished live show.
Backed by bright technicolour lights along with lasers and plenty of dry ice, the band often appear as silhouettes, distanced from the crowd by the glare. But rakish frontman Faris Badwan, though more subdued than in his notorious early live shows, leans through the mist to survey his people. Tonight he’s in a humble mood, thanking the crowd first for coming and then for their continued support through the years.
Amid the crowd-pleasers tonight is ‘Sea Within A Sea’, the standout track from their breakthrough album Primary Colours, along with the euphoric ‘Still Life’ that makes for a fitting closer. Of the ten tracks from their last album, only six get an airing, among them lead single ‘Machine’ and the sprawling ‘Press Enter To Exit’. But it would be nice to hear all of them, especially as V is such an accomplished album. And there’s certainly space for a few more tracks on the setlist, with the band only onstage for little over an hour. Polishing off the encore is the band’s poppiest – and arguably best – track to date, the triumphant ‘Something To Remember Me By’, the synthy, singalong chorus marking the end of a set of blistering and glistening alt-rock tunes.
Though erring on the short side, The Horrors put on a blinding show. If there’s any justice in the world, within a year or two, they’ll be playing venues twice the size of Brighton’s humble Attenborough Centre, to crowds that recognise The Horrors as one of the most progressive and intriguing bands around.