The Horrors, Electric Ballroom, London

3.00

A serious stab at moody tunes

The general consensus on The Horror's new album, Primary Colours, appears to be along the lines of, "actually quite good – no, seriously." I find myself surprised to agree with it.

Many were ready to write off The Horrors as something of a joke, or had already done so, since they landed in a hail of hype and hairdos in 2007, complete with silly names, zealous styling and cartoonish, gothic garage-rock. Things have taken a turn for the studious lately, with a record that sounds like a primer for serious art-rock from the last few decades: a dose of krautrock here, some shoegaze there, spiky guitars and jagged synths, lashings of new wave and post-punk, all jammed together in the blender. You wouldn't call their new sound strikingly new, but there are some good tunes in the mix.

The band's first song, "Mirror's Image", is a fine, moody start which sets the tone for the show. Rumbling bass and synth lines chime nicely with cascading guitars and lead singer Faris Badwan's deep bass. The vocals here, and throughout, seem a bit too low down in the mix, though, often drowned out by the wail of the sound.

Some have expressed disappointment that The Horrors have ditched the rock'n'roll fun of before to display their credentials as "serious artists". The live show is certainly a more sober affair; the band largely remain stationary, with only Badwan (previously known as Faris Rotter, or is it the other way around?) occasionally throwing some shapes or raising an arm aloft.

Mainly, Badwan lolls around the stage nonchalantly, a picture of studied gothic cool, dressed in tight dark trousers, a black leather biker jacket, and underneath, an oversized black T-shirt. Occasionally he picks up a stage light and shines it on the crowd, but that is about as dramatic as it gets. The band are keen to accentuate the new direction – the set is comprised of eight songs from the new album played consecutively, with only three older songs appearing at the end of the night, tossed out in a swift encore.

At times, though, the set seems like merely a collection of art-rock influences. The druggy drones of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized ring out a little too clearly in the repetitive guitar and organ chugging of "I Can't Control Myself", eerily reminiscent of the latter band's song, "Come Together", while some efforts in the middle of The Horrors' set blur into a noisy marriage of shoegaze and new wave. Occasionally you can't help but feel that the whole thing might exist in quotation marks – whether this is conscious or not is unclear.

However, when the songs are good, as they frequently are here, it hardly matters. The NME was quick to mention Primary Colours in the same breath as Psychocandy and Loveless, which seems a little heady, but there is much to admire in the new material. "Three Decades" barrels along excellently, with Badwan performing some little twirls to match the speedy waves of music.

But they are at their best on "Sea Within a Sea", the first single from the new record, a song that instantly highlighted their new intent with epic krautrock rhythms. Calling to mind Can's "Oh Yeah", it is at once stately and skin-tight. Performed on stage with the same valour as it is on record, the song manages to go well beyond pastiche to be a fine, haunting pop song on its own.

The band conclude the main part of the show on this high point and judging by the pitch of some of the fans screams as they leave the stage, it would seem that many in the audience were in the teenage bracket; people who probably care less about the back catalogues of German experimental bands of the 1970s than the music reviewers hanging near the back.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick