Beyond his role as singer, Faris Badwan has only one message for his band's newly expanded fanbase: "If you've come for conversation, you've come to the wrong place." The Horrors are happy to be a commercial success, but without turning into Coldplay.
With their third album, Skying, the five-piece are reaching out not only to clean-cut fans unlikely to copy Badwan's outgrown bowl-cut, but also a smattering from an older generation that followed the acts this band also venerate. Such an outcome was unlikely when the group first stalked out of Southend in 2006 as garage-psych fetishists with a taste for Halloween dandy outfits that earned them a Mighty Boosh appearance, but overshadowed hints of credibility on their debut, Strange House.
Its follow-up, 2009's Mercury-nominated Primary Colours, showed more expansive ambition, while this year's self-produced Skying adds melodic heft and leapt into the album chart's top five. Now they are stepping up to a size of venue where wearing tight pants is not enough to earn acclaim – and The Horrors deliver fitfully. Partly, there is a tendency to merely rehash their admittedly disparate influences, a combination of shoegaze noise-pop and icy Eighties synths. Too often, guitarist Joshua Hayward is content just to ape My Bloody Valentines' backwards-sounding surges, while Rhys Webb on keyboards supplies the swooning and sighing effects.
Over three albums, Badwan's vocals have improved massively, though he reveals limitations as he finds a space between a keening Brett Anderson and the commanding tone of Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler. Whipping his mike lead fails to disguise moments when the singer lacks enough definition to sound properly authoritative, especially on slower tunes where he fades away. This is frustrating given that the set's highlights are unimpeachable. "I Can See Through You" brings a grand vision to a piece of scenester bitchiness, while on "Still Life" Badwan's voice soars over the slow, mournful beat.
At such times, Webb's keys are usually at the fore, with brutally effective chord sequences, regular hints that the band have been more influenced by dance music than is immediately apparent on, say, the demented "Monica Gems" with its frenzied guitar punctuated by clipped drum fills. The Horrors close with the supposedly epic "Moving Further Away", which begins promisingly with some ravey synths, but outstays its welcome, as an extended instrumental interlude drags on without the tension or dramas shown elsewhere tonight.Reuse content