The Horrors @ O2 Acadmey Oxford – 19/01/12

As I walk in to the Academy I am hit with a wall of well crafted noise. Toy are a London five-piece born from the ashes of Joe Lean & The Jing Jang Jong. Like The Horrors themselves, it easy to see their influences, but they are greater than the sum of their parts. Their sound is very much in the noise-ruck, post-punk side of things. Think My Vitriol with synths, or a less depressed Sonic Youth. Despite the layered sound and fuzzed guitars, their sound is so well constructed that nothing is lost, from keyboard underpinnings to effects laden solos. They are a band who deserve to make it big , and the exposure they’ve gotten on this tour should help.

After the break The Horrors take to the stage and breaking into the opening track from 2011’s Skying, ‘Changing In The Rain’. As they get going the band sounds a little washed out and anaemic, but as they warm up they become more and more exciting. Badwan’s baritone flies over the dense textured sound, more than a little reminiscent of Mark E Smith. In oppositon to the seperation and clarity of Toy’s set, The Horrors build one coheisive mix punctured by huge snare hits. The band looks like a rag-tag bunch of misfits, most looking like the Hoxton trendies they are but keyboardist Tom Cowan is dressed more like a member of Kraftwerk; a synthesiser scientist. The synths have become much more prevalent on their last two albums, to great effect, but they do lead to the only major downside of the set.

In between songs, the gaps of often filled with a long synth stab or and effect warbble, but some how with the minimal interaction from Badwan, the band lose the crowd at these points. The songs are engrossing but, between them the audience starts talking to themselves which adds a bit of a sour note to the evening. That said tracks like ‘I Can See Through You’ with it’s New Order blast or ‘Dive In’ doing its best to evoke The Jesus & Mary Chain , really show that sometimes music does sound better live: It’s rare but these songs sound less restrained and more alive here in a performance than they did on record.

After their dramatic change of tact back in 2009 with Primary Colours, The Horrors have all but erased every trace of their previous uber-trendy grarage-rock gothic pseudonym-covered past. It is almost completely understandable, there is only a passing resemblance to that period of their career left in their sound, and now they are so much more. They are band at their peak who leave us all thinking and hoping that their next album will be just as impressive. But for now we have the memory of an amazing set from a band at the forefront of british guitar music.