The Horrors, Concorde 2, Brighton

They might sound good, but all the horror has gone out of it
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The Independent Culture

Didn't it break your heart? When photos of The Horrors in the studio emerged in NME earlier this year, showing them clean-faced, flat-haired and plaid-shirted, it wasn't an unlucky candid camera moment.

This was the image they wanted to present. By releasing these pictures, The Horrors were following a predictable rock trajectory, unveiling the "serious" second album with the invisible tagline "this time it's musical".

Let's get this straight: Rugby-educated toffs dressing like consumptive Edwardian aristos from the imaginations of Stoker or Poe? Cool. Rugby-educated toffs dressing down all the same? Not.

The accompanying quotes from Faris Rotter distancing himself from the "pantomime theatrics" of chaotic early gigs made matters worse. They've even ditched their aliases: Rotter now goes by his given surname Badwan, Joshua Third aka Von Grimm has reverted to Hayward, "Spider" Webb to Rhys, Tomethy Furse is plain old Tom Cowan, and Coffin Joe is Joseph Spurgeon.

What's more, word was that the new release, Primary Colours, was influenced by Krautrock. Always a fast-track to (un)critical acclaim, Krautrock is also a musical dead end, melody sacrificed to monotony. But it spells clever, and clever gets you five stars. Thus Primary Colours has been hailed as the year's unexpectedly brilliant comeback.

Tonight, it's all about the new album. The Primary Colours material is, I concede, impressive and, at close quarters, overwhelming, typified by a discordant, even atonal morass of noise, a locked groove reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine's "Soon" and, over the top, one exuberant melody (almost always coming from one of Webb's several synths). A cursory "Sheena is a Parasite" and "Count in Fives" appear as encores, but early singles "Death in the Chapel" and "She is the New Thing" are omitted.

There's little to look at. Cowan, in his hooped matelot jersey and basin bob, looks as if he's auditioning for a Chapterhouse tribute act. Webb, with sensible side-parting, could be applying for the post-room job vacated by Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia. Hayward, at least, is still unreasonably pretty, single-handedly justifying the girly screams which greet their arrival. And, for all his talk, Faris can't help throwing exaggerated shapes, a twitching leper Christ afflicted by St Vitus's Dance.

While it may be a positive thing that young ears are being exposed to challenging music, if The Horrors had come along looking and sounding like this in the first place they'd still be playing in a Southend pub. If the frilly shirts and freaky hair were a Trojan horse for their new (Neu!) sound, it's worked a dream.

For making a "quality" record, one must reluctantly salute them. I just wish someone else was doing it. Because we can get "quality" records from anyone, but The Horrors were that far more precious commodity: a great pop thing.

"Good" music is the enemy, and in The Horrors' case the enemy is winning: yet another Fun Police victory.

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