Release the bats! This debut EP by UK "band of the moment" is full of style over substance garage-rock, watered down, cartoon darkness -- and not a lot else.
Indie music history is littered with the broken wrecks of "next big thing" bands, destined for greatness and thrust onto the bright cover of the NME before anyone actually wanted to hear them. Certainly, for every Arctic Monkeys or Libertines, there's a Terris or a Menswear lurking in the magazine's all but forgotten shadows. Few bands, though, can be less deserving of a place in the spotlight than The Horrors, who graced the NME as cover-stars just a month or two ago.
The Horrors are one of those bands that seem to represent the very worst kind of style over substance, designer hype. They come on the back of all the right manufactured record company build up, have the expensive haircuts and trendy threads, and to tell the truth, not a lot else. The band's main gimmick, apart from the Vince Noir-like gravity defying hair, is that they seem to be presented as some kind of black-clad goth-punk revivalists who dress like corpses at a roller disco and play hysterical garage-punk thrashes that sound like the Cramps and the Damned.
The thing is, even a movement rooted in cartoon darkness like goth at least came with a bit of authenticity. You might well have grown out of it by the time you were 17, but most goths still had the commitment to hang around in a few graveyards and drink the odd snakebite in the meantime. The Horrors, on the other hand, offer a completely clean-cut, watered-down, designer-label version of everything they touch. As for the music -- well, surprise, surprise -- it's shit. There's an admirable attempt to keep the songs on The Horrors EP short, jagged, and over before you notice where the riffs have been nicked from, but that's about as good as it gets.
The '60s garage thrashes come straight out of the handbook -- with only the demented Vox organ on "Death at the Chapel" sounding remotely interesting. "Crawdaddy Simone" and "Jack the Ripper" are both limp cover versions of great, dumb songs that are reduced to little more than shock-rock karaoke here. "Jack the Ripper" in particular lacks the eerie tone of Screaming Lord Sutch's original, as well as any of the incendiary fire the White Stripes injected into the song. As for the Horrors originals, both "Sheena is a Parasite" and "Death at the Chapel" are generic-beyond-belief pop-punk songs, which for all the twisted darkness the bands image alludes to, are devoid of any sort of menace or shade. Only the last track here, "Excellent Choice", with its discordant, slightly unsettling vocals and Cramps-like rhythm, hints at anything decent to come from the band.
The worst thing about this EP is that it should be great. The band could have taken all that dark, kitsch, B-Movie style, dressed it up and produced some squalling, dumb, funny pop anthems. There's clearly already enough about the Horrors and particularly, their posing, zombified frontman, Faris Badwan (yep, seriously), to ensure they receive the almost frenzied attention they're currently getting. Besides, as shown up by this review, there's nothing like a bunch of public schoolboys playing at being rock stars to get peoples backs up when they should know better. And really, all of this would be great if the Horrors actually had the tunes to back up the hairdos. The truth is, though, the Horrors can't help but reek of a band that have fallen into the trap of receiving too much attention and hype before they had anything worth listening to. Their shelf life as "band of the moment" might be limited, and their time might very definitely be now -- but maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea for the Horrors to keep the image and scurry back to the Batcave to spend and a little less time playing with the hairspray, and a bit more time writing some decent songs.