The Horrors - Strange House
Holly Cruise 27/03/2007
There can be no more double edged blade in the whole of music than being an NME hype band. Sure it will light up a band and send them instantly flaming brightly into thousands of people's consciousnesses but that flaming brightness might turn out to be the flaming brightness which can be easily achieved by dousing yourself in petrol then deciding to have a ciggie. It'll look bloody good for a few moments but you're going to regret the attention the next day. Currently burning bright/wasting precious natural resources are The Horrors. Five art school boys with the dress sense of a morose Victorian poet, the hair of a six year old child or a roadkilled badger, and an outsider complex the size of Yorkshire. These are men who will stare down their noses at anyone who does not share their obscure taste in music. It's hard not to get a little annoyed at someone who considers you to be a sheep for not listening to 1950s garage rock whilst wearing a severe fringe and a very serious facial expression.
As it happens the clothes are irrelevant. At least two of them actually look quite cool. At least one of the remaining three probably will after puberty. It's just the combination of NME's drooling fawning and their snootiness which rubs a lot of people up the wrong way. So how can they prove themselves? Release an album? Hang on, they're a band?
And here's the other problem with riding a wave of hype. As cool as it might seem to play 20 minute gigs then storm off into the night setting off fireworks and black paint everywhere, it doesn't bode well for an album, an art form which usually requires at least 28 minutes of music in order to satisfy most listeners. Anything less is an EP. And that's what you have here. An EP.
Ok, it's ostensibly 38 minutes long, but there are really only six decent tracks on here. Admittedly those six are rather good. Overlooking the desire to imitate that chav who walloped singer Faris Rotter, and listening to their music on its own merits throws up a nice line in spooky indie rock. There's no denying they are musically talented, guitarist Joshua Von Grimm and keyboardist Spider Webb in particular have some imaginative little riffs bubbling round their brains. When these get out on tracks like 'Count In Fives' and 'Draw Japan' it's like having the Munsters round for a night listening to The Libertines. Sure, it's all a little pantomime, even their most hardcore attempts to be spooky, 'Excellent Choice' and Screaming Lord Sutch cover 'Jack The Ripper', sound a bit Halloween, a bit bobbing for apples and trick or treat, rather than real terror. It's like being chased by Bela Lugosi's Dracula. If you listen to the singles it sounds like they have something that, if not spectacularly innovative, is at least attempting a bit of camp theatre in the increasingly, and depressingly, blokey world of Brit indie.
But beyond that this is horribly lightweight. It sounds far too much like they were rushed into releasing something, anything, to cash in on the spotlight before it turns away to burn the faces off some other poor prats with guitars. The dip in quality on the latter half of the album is almost frightening, easily the most frightening thing on here. There's even an instrumental track which goes nowhere and does so before the album stutters to an end with a hidden track. There's more false endings to this album than there were in Lord Of The Rings, although at least that was over 324780731 hours long. The Horrors album spends at least a quarter of its running time making you think it's about to finish. And wishing it would. Not good, not good at all.
So much as I'm sure people would like me to skewer them completely I have to admit they aren't the complete talent vacuum, all surface no substance, types the NME have unwittingly put them across as. But if you're going to spend album prices you don't want an EP's worth of material. The Horrors need to go away and spend some more time getting the music sorted unless they want to be models not musicians. The guitarist still has awesome hair, mind.