MusicfestNW, Friday: The Horrors

photos by Brittney Bollay

The roots of British quintet The Horrors lie within the 60’s garage rock and post-punk movements, the evolutions of which led directly to new wave. The five band members met and bonded over mutual love of groups like Bauhaus and The Birthday Party, infusing elements of goth and shoegaze into the Horrors’ already established sound. This dedication to revivalism has informed all their releases to date, including 2011’s Skying, which showcases a far more 80’s approach to the new wave/post-punk spectrum. Accompanying thudding percussion and driving bass are spacious synth pads and reverb-drenched, crooning vocals. Lead singer Faris Badwan has grown more and more into the Robert Smith school of fashion, with unkempt long hair and a bellowing wail that colors the band’s nebulous arrangements. It’s no wonder these young UK rockers have garnered so much buzz; their unabashed dedication to their sound is unparalleled to their contemporaries, many of whom would pale in comparison to the bands they emulate. Not the Horrors. They’re aware they fit right in the pantheon.

Their 10:30am set at Doug Fir Lounge, part of KEXP’s live broadcast, was certainly odd for band and audience alike — this is a band to be listened to at night time and, for this reason, I simply preferred to see this morning set as an extension of last night’s activities. Their set began late because of their extensive sound check but it was well worth the wait. Frontman Faris Badwan, dressed all in black and standing over six feet tall with enveloping jet black hair and round sunglasses, led the band through a set of dark, driving, 80’s drenched shoegaze that never lacked structure or melody. Badwan’s lyrics are often short, repeated, simple phrases such as “I can see through you” or “When you wake up, you will find me.” These snippets are vague yet, sung in Badwan’s croon (at times, he sounds a bit like Julian Plenti from Interpol, an influence I’m thinking The Horrors would not deny), these phrases are without context which allows the listener to easily identify and relate.

Their new album is tremendous but, as a result of the production and epic nature of the songs, I’d always felt a bit detached as a listener, like I was listening to a band I would never see — their album makes them sound like a huge band, a compliment to The Horrors who produced Skying themselves at their self-built London studio. Live, however, it was enlightening and refreshing to see the songs as separate parts that make a whole. A live setting gave the songs personality and they flat out sounded incredible. Catch them tonight at Dante’s at a more fitting hour. Their set starts at midnight.

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