Live Review: The Horrors at Nottingham Rescue Rooms by Michelle Dhillon

A lot can happen in two years. Things evolve, people change, even wars can start and end. For me, the roots of NG Magazine will always start with The Horrors, being the first act we covered at the end of March 2007. Back then, even though they’d sold out Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms like tonight, large sectors of the music press still regarded them with distaste, mainly because their hair was excessively large and faces overly made up in a neo-Goth stylee.

Live Review: The Horrors at Nottingham Rescue Rooms

Gone now is the excessively large and – some might have said – mental hair, but any attempt to sum up how far The Horrors have advanced musically in these two years is totally beyond my ability. I’d always maintained that there were shards of glittering genius in their debut album and that they were technically very gifted. But seeing The Horrors tonight is what it must have been like to witness a monumental set from seminal post-punksters Joy Division in 1979. Yes. It really was that good!

After five minutes of distortion clogging the speakers, The Horrors finally stride onto the stage, opening with Mirror’s Image. Their awesomeness strikes you immediately – they look flawless and sound immense. Searing guitars puncture the airwaves, alternating with Faris Badwan’s claustrophobic, brooding Ian Curtis-esque vocal. Spider (Rhys) Webb has swapped synths for Tomethy Furse’s bass duties and the results are sublime. It’s loud, brilliant & shrouded in a magical finesse. This is the type of sound that can fill stadiums, but it’s been packed into a medium sized venue. I’m spellbound.

“The Horrors have succeeded in transporting us all the way back to the late seventies and are bringing to bear a jaw-dropping, phenomenal dosage of post-punk….(They) proved beyond all doubt that musical perfection is not unattainable and its not often that I see a band that truly blows my mind. God bless The Horrors for saving 2009.”

All of their set is composed of choice cuts from their second album Primary Colours, but I’m nowhere near as disappointed as I’d expected to be at the apparent neglect of their debut. I Can’t Control Myself, with its industrial rhythmic intricacy, brings to mind the acerbic punk rock of Nine Inch Nails. The colossal Sea Within A Sea is the standout number tonight, with its prolonged rise-and-fall structure crashing over the crowd like a huge tidal wave. The synths are ghostly and minimal, very Cure-like, and build up to a densely packed, thunderous storm of sound.

They receive rapturous applause when they embark on an encore that consists of the perfect punk-goth-pop of Count In Fives, Sheena Is A Parasite and, my personal favourite, Gloves. I can see why they confined their debut material to the encore as it wouldn’t have sat well with the level of sophistication displayed in the rest of their set. It seemed like a slightly odd but intriguing decision to work with video director Chris Cunningham and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow as producers on Primary Colours, but the experiment has paid dividends.

Unlike many of their worthless contemporaries (I will personally firebomb any idiot who dares to mention White Lies) The Horrors have succeeded in transporting us all the way back to the late seventies and are bringing to bear a jaw-dropping, phenomenal dosage of post-punk. The Horrors have proved beyond all doubt that musical perfection is not unattainable and its not often that I see a band that truly blows my mind. God bless The Horrors for saving 2009.