I’m such a horrible person, me… rather than spending my 9th Wedding Anniversary at home with my lovely wife, or indeed even taking her out on the town (as it were), I’m off on my own down to Brizzle to catch former black balloon comic Goth troupe turned early 80’s dark rockist and Krautrock/ baggy disciples The Horrors! After flying under my radar for so long, thanks to that “Munsters” style initial sighting back in 2007 (gig 723), they’d impressed last time out (gig 837), opening my 2012 gig year with some absorbing rock tomfoolery. I confess the new album “Luminous” hasn’t made much of an impression on me, being no great departure from the previous effort “Skying” and a little more devoid of memorable tuneage, but I wasn’t going to let that little detail stop me from checking their 2014 incarnation out!
Hit the road at ¼ to 7, driving swiftly down the M4 but then hitting horrendous slow traffic trying to get into Bristol. Apparently they’ve made a permanent speed limit change to the end of the M32 – from 60 to 40. Ridiculous! I therefore took half an hour from junction to car park (bah!) and arrived, a little frustrated, but still in time to check out openers Telegram. Good thing too, as they impressed mightily with some brash blasts of dark, expansive, amphetamine-fast punky power and swagger. I took time warming to the vocalist’s slightly reedy voice and very Welsh singing accent, but everything else was good, with the Doors-like driving groove and soaring chorus of “Aeons” a mid-set highlight. Some rather clever and selective plagiarists here; odd riffs or choral hooks sounded naggingly familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them! “This last one’s for the ghost of the balcony,” announced the vocalist for their last number, “Folly”, a suitably dry-ice enshrouded and dark spooky number to end a damn fine set, which recalled Marion and My Vitriol.
A word about the balcony here; it was shut tonight, with plenty of space on the floor around my usual stage-left spot, even as the witching hour approached. A surprisingly low Bristol turnout for The Horrors tonight, methinks… nevertheless, the band took the darkened stage at 9, easing into pounding, loose-limbed opener “Chasing Shadows”, the lead-off track from their current album. Vocalist Faris Badwan, the Goblin King of gig 837, appeared last, leather-clad and angular, throwing expressive shapes from the outset like a young Julian Cope, along to his band’s predominantly bass and synth led music. Third number, the oldie “Who Can Say”, was a more potent, strident Jesus And Mary Chain sonic groove, otherwise the set veered from libidinous and freeform baggy slightly-delic dance, to more driving metronomic Stereolab-esque Krautrock, with Faris’ vocals drifting hazily over the top, like a cloud of evaporated meringue, and the backlit laser and dry ice combining to create a compelling visual spectacle. Clearly preferring mood, texture and atmosphere to song structure, The Horrors tonight weaved a musical spell; music to bliss out and sway along to, like a pastoral acid trip or half remembered dream, so I duly closed my eyes and swayed along!
“Endless Blue”, with its’ abrupt mid-song tempo change, was a highlight, with the pink backlit spotlights, mixed with the smoke, giving the entirely appropriate, out-of-focus, impression of staring at 3D without the 3D glasses on! The staccato synth and dramatic riffery of “Mirrors Image” segued into the synth powered, Tubeway Army-esque “Still Life” which was the set highlight, smoothly building to a roaring crescendo, like an aircraft revving to take off. “I See You” then closed out a set which was never less than absorbing and thoroughly enjoyable, and at times tremendous.
“Thanks for being such a great crowd,” announced the otherwise taciturn Faris, before final number, the lengthy, sprawling “Moving Further Away”, which recalled the European synth travelogues of early 70’s Kraftwerk, before again building to a stretched crescendo of noise, smoke and light, with Faris directing operations through the haze. A splendid way to end a 1 ½ hour performance which for me, cemented The Horrors growing reputation as purveyors of intriguing sonic mood and atmosphere. Grabbed a set-list, then chatted with Telegram’s back rows at the merch stand on my way out, getting my previously grabbed Telegram set-list signed and being pleased to discover that their guitarist had actually heard of Marion! A startlingly swift drive home, feeling less horrible about seeing 2 fine performances from Telegram and The Horrors!