If cultural re-appropriation is really just a matter of the degree to which you wear your influences on your sleeves, the Horrors are perpetually in danger of tripping over their own flowing cuffs. The five members of the English band are purveyors of a bluesy, “so beholden to the past it borders on new” scuzz rock, a bunch of black-and-white mod-goths who get off on the messy intersection of quasi-surf punk and B-movie horror iconography. Members of the “NME Coverperson Club,” they’ve expectedly been flagged as phonies due to their nearly overpowering sartorial sensibilities, but what’s more fascinating is that they ever managed to make it out of whatever ratty Southend basement birthed them.
The quintet’s recent New York show was the most excitingly decrepit live show I’ve seen in a while, a twenty-minute maelstrom of undeserved bravado and stitched-together haunted-house rock. The ever-present threat of implosion sent most of the audience into Halloween-night costumed confusion and/or “date panic,” but I made like a fan and slackened my jaw, happy to be witness to the crumbling. The twelve and a half minutes of their debut EP serviceably captures that aesthetic of disintegration; the band has a distinct ability to max out its potential into an enjoyable brand of well-encapsulated energy infused with the spazziest of pop tendencies.
The standout track is “Sheena Is a Parasite,” which begins with an arpeggiating guitar hum that’s quickly complemented by a wicked hurricane breakbeat. This rhythm-and-hum groundwork is joined by slammed-down organ/guitar dissonance and a bitter narrative of failed romance. As a testament to the band’s hype-ified status, the track recently got the Chris Cunningham video treatment. More tellingly, though, its semi-clever titular Ramones pun is seeming evidence of an intriguing wink-wink wit. “Excellent Choice” is more choice gutter-fuzz, an echoey call-and-response between the hoarse mind meanderings of lead singer Faris “Rotter” Badwan and unidentified prose mutterings. Also included are covers of ’60s shock-horror maven-turned-politico Screaming Lord Sutch’s “Jack the Ripper” and the Syndicats’ “Crawdaddy Simone” — both further evidence of the Horrors’ nostalgic leanings.
A Horrors full-length is expected in 2007, on which photog/Yeah Yeah Yeahs axeman Nick Zinner has already logged some production duties. It seems a marriage of commonality rather than convenience; the YYYs are about emotionally filling huge spaces with minimal equipment (or at least they were), and if Zinner can inject just the smallest bit of that into the Horrors, the band may butterfly into something more colorful than its current incarnation. The image has to become secondary: the members are so un-scary as to render the “image vs. music” discussions irrelevant, and the danger of the live show is a sort of secure terror because nothing ever really disintegrates in pop music. It’s a hook, and a decently original one, and they’ve gotten their patent leather boots in the door to showcase some interesting tunes. How long they can support the weight of the graveyard chic madness may depend on whether Mr. Zinner can scare up a couple of extra cufflinks.
Artist: http://www.thehorrors.co.uk/Audio: http://www.myspace.com/thehorrors