The Horrors are the best rock band in Britain. Blending pomposity and playfulness, earnestness and impudence, they are plucky upholders of a glorious, specifically English, tradition of pretentious art-pop.
That they haven’t sold many records says less about the Londoners than about the depressive state of rock’n’ roll, which continues to fight a losing battle against the candy-coated double offensive of pop and hip hop.
Cliches came thick and fast as they kicked off their European tour (Hurricane Ophelia having forced the cancellation of a Belfast gig the previous evening).
But these were all the best stereotypes. Spider-limbed frontman Faris Badwan — fleetingly a tabloid person of interest by dint of a short relationship with the late Peaches Geldof — huffed about the stage, framed by spotlights and dry ice. With his jerky body language and expressive, dolorous voice he looked like a cross between Mick Jagger and Edward Scissorhands.
Shaking their generous mops, his bandmates were meanwhile ardently committed to the non-ironic task of rocking out.
‘Who Can Say’ and ‘Sea Within A Sea’ were roiling mini-epics, that drew on krautrock and goth without trying to be arch about it.
Swerving from post-rock instrumental to rollicking banger ‘Endless Blue’, for its part, showed they can write an old-school, anthem-in-waiting when they fancy takes.
The Horrors’s latest album, V, has seemed in danger of vanishing without a trace — a shame, as they reminded us with imperious debut performances of ‘Hologram’ and ‘Press Enter To Exit’ (both bearing the glossy hallmark of Adele producer Paul Epworth, who oversaw the new LP).
They played the ‘hits’ too, with favourite ‘Still Life’ crystallising their position as glorious marriage of non-rubbish U2 and a self-aware Cure.
Five LPs in, they should be playing arenas by now. Instead, 1,000 or so lucky souls here got to experience their icy genius in a thrillingly intimate setting.