The Horrors, Academy, Dublin

The last time The Horrors played Dublin, they terrified fans of Florence and the Machine, who had turned up early for her show at the O2.

Three months later, they’re the headliners rather than the support and their droning psychedelia receives a palpably warmer welcome. In part, that’s because The Horrors are a rare sight in Ireland. Florence aside, their last date was at a summer festival, where their scary retro-rock went over the heads of a boozy afternoon audience.

With sprayed on drain pipes, enormous leather jacket and an over-sized head, frontman Faris Badwan resembles an east London hipster as sketched by Edward Gorey. There’s something phantasmagorical about his singing voice, too, a gothic whine buried so deeply in the mix it is difficult to work out what he’s trying to say, beyond expressing existential ennui.

Five posh London friends, to look at them you’d imagine The Horrors were bolted together, Frankenstein-style, from different bands.

While Badwan is every centimetre the cartoon goth, floppy-fringed bassist Rhys Webb seems to be channelling Blur’s Alex James circa Parklife, down to the way he shakes his head as if bopping along to a maraca solo only he can hear. Behind a bank of synths and sequencers, Tom Cowan, meanwhile, wears a sports jacket and tie and has neatly parted hair, like an office worker from the late ’50s.

Their sartorial incoherence is not reflected in their music. With last year’s Skying, the band confirmed they were, perhaps, the best young guitar act in Britain. On paper, for sure, there was nothing original about their mix of Velvet Underground, Jesus and Mary Chain and Neu!. The execution, though, is dazzling, particularly the krautrock-esque Endless Blue (which changes from moochy ramble to propulsive dirge 90 seconds in) and the keening Still Life, a power ballad that proves it is possible to be heavily influenced by Simple Minds and retain your credibility. For those partial to melodramatic goth-pop, tonight will surely go down as one of the year’s best gigs.

Ed Power


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