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Gothic Ballroom Joy: The Horrors, Live in London

13 July 2017, 21:44 | Written by Richard Miles Sayer

Entering into the venue the scene is powerfully set with feedback loops and squeals, somewhat reminiscent of the sound inside a speeding tube train when the windows are down. Needless to say Shazam was stumped - maybe a Neu! B-side?

Why The Horrors chose this venue for the first night of their tour, which sees them fully booked until December, is overwhelmingly evident. Omeara is a new space tucked into the backstreets of Borough, the jewel in its crown being the intimate, 320-capacity gothic ballroom with a stage the size of a poky London bedsit. There would be no escape tonight.

Eyes are immediately drawn to the pyramid at the centre of the stage - no, The Horrors haven’t gone full Spinal Tap, this is Tom Furse’s bespoke 80s style modulator, commissioned by XL boss Richard Russell. It's at once futuristic and archaic in appearance - remind you of anyone?

The group clamber over their instruments through the thick fog on the intimate stage, greeting a greedy crowd, and burst straight into latest single "Machine". it's delivered with conviction and, although only released a month prior to the show, the vitriolic lyrics “Yeah you will never never never be/More than a machine” are gleefully volleyed back from the crowd.

"Machine" announces the first of four songs from their as-yet-unreleased album, the aptly titled “V”, their fifth. Produced by the renowned Paul Epworth, his pop-chops are strikingly evident. What we see tonight ranges from the acid rock of "Machine" via an industrial, beat-laden number to an obviously Epworth-influenced groove which sees Faris imploring the crowd not to allow "love to let you down". The last of the new songs aired tonight, "Something To Remember Me By", features pulsating soaring synths and is the most obvious pop that has come from the Horrors to date. Much to the dismay of die hard fans, this will undoubtably attract new devotees, and sounds destined to end up on a Fifa soundtrack near you, recalling New Order's poppiest moments. Disco Horrors, perhaps?

Outings of Primary Colours classics like "Who Can Say", "Mirror's Image" and "Sea Within a Sea" see Josh Hayward’s overdrive-drenched guitar and spiralling leg, reminiscent of an upside-down Pete Townsend, remind us why we first fell for the group. Their debut Strange House was certainly intriguing, but sophomore record Primary Colours drove this unexpectedly hypnotising group deep into my psyche, before dragging said pscyhe through a push-and-pull of tributes to Berlin’s best Krautrock (can someone please come up with a less embarrassing term to refer to the groups born from this movement? It’s 2017!).

The audience is also treated to "Still Life", which, although started twice, sparkles just as much as in 2011. The occasion truly captures the essence of the band, with Hayward jittering around the stage, paralleled by the smooth shoulder swaying of Rhys Webb and centred by Faris' distinctive oxymoronic eloquent slur arching over the fray. The group are visually anchored by reserved Tom Furse and driven forward by Joe Spurgeon’s unwavering rhythms. All of this, consistently framed with splintering strobes, leaves blisters on the eyeballs of the faithful at the front clutching the stage.

Tonight serves a strong reminder that the group have always been about the theatre of the performance as well as expanding the musical palette of average indie fans. Since the keen energy of Strange House, the make-up and hairstyles may have fallen by the wayside, but the crux of the Horrors has always been located in live performance and that is why I will always come back. If tonight’s performance of new songs is indicative of the band's direction, I expect that I will not be alone.

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