The Horrors @ Chinnerys, Southend-on-Sea
The Horrors are coming home as part of a Jack Daniels series of intimate homecoming gigs. Will Southend-on-Sea cling them to their bosom? Mark Wall reports
"I’d say it’s good to be home…but I’m not actually from here so..." Faris Badwan dryly tells the crowd whilst the dreamscapes of 'Mirror Image' rush through the speakers and The Horrors launch their intimate homecoming gig at Southend-on-Sea’s Chinnerys.
Returning to their favourite local indie dive as part of a Jack Daniels sponsored series of hometown gigs, as someone who hasn’t seen their live show since the formative pre-Strange House days it’s firstly a shock to see time keyboardist Rhys Webb commanding a bass with all the groove of a thinner, prettier Mani, and secondly to note Faris seems to have dropped the shock tactics, preferring moody immersion to ringmaster tomfoolery these days.
'Mirror Image' quickly builds from the ethereal to the downright aggressive - I swear the band almost blow the speakers as they all dive in to the drone headfirst. It’s the perfect choice of opener for such a small, sweatbox of a venue. Rhys’ bass throbs out front as Tom Cowan leads the charge from stage left with the hypnotic synth and keyboard riffs.
Sticking with their gear-shifting second LP Primary Colours for now, 'Who Can Say' hits heavy with the post punk psychedelia of Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes et al. Then there’s that synth riff. It’s a pretty impressive one-two punch that has the whiskey soaked audience braying for more and me wondering how they can keep the momentum going.
Sadly, the Human League conjuring 'I Can See Through Yo' isn’t the answer I was looking for. Whilst an album highlight, outside of that context it only serves to slow the tempo and; followed by two more middling tracks from across their last two LPs; lose the audience’ attention somewhat.
Despite a lukewarm and thinning crowd the band do their best to keep things dynamic and the tension builds once again as the way out, distorted dub of 'Endless Blue'’s intro teases us with what we know is coming next. Ripples of anticipation coast through the crowd as Josh Hayward steps forward out of his smoky corner of the stage to stab and ring every shard of discordant sound of out his instrument with the ‘can’t believe it’s not a drum machine’ drumming of Joe Spurgeon providing the backing to take the song wherever the fuck he wants.
It’s a pretty intense moment and more than proves that The Horrors have the chops to back up whatever studio experiments they care to indulge in during the recording process.
The always entrancing 'Sea Within A Sea' ends the set proper, with strobe lights illuminating pockets of the blown away audience as they down instruments, only to return moments later, leading off with 'Still Life' and 'Changing the Rain' from Skying>.
Faris swaps stillness for cathartic, crowd baiting antics. He struggles to keep his breath as the rest of the band head into epic closer 'Moving Further Away': eight minutes of alchemy that perfectly sums up The Horrors’ current aesthetic, touching on everything from New Order’s rudimentary dance experimentation to the driving krautrock of Neu!
A triumphant homecoming then, if one that deserved a more attentive, appreciative crowd. But then they left for a reason right?