Strange Pleasures: The Horrors @ Dürer Kert

It again crossed my mind to attempt an almost objective review, like it did with Interpol a few years back but then I dutifully gave up. There’s just no point in that- The Horrors have been one of my favourite bands, like, ever (insert teenage giggles and batting of eyelashes here) so I cannot be anything less than overexcited whenever I see them play. Should I ever give that up I will consider myself old and hopelessly out of tune with the world’s more luminous sides.

Even their somewhat questionable first effort belongs to the stranger pleasures of my younger years- actually, I’ve never been to a Horrors gig without someone either boasting that they still listen to Strange House extensively, or loudly demanding the band play songs off it, a request which usually falls on deaf ears. Yet, of course, what happened after Strange House is perhaps the strangest thing of them all (solemn promise to cut back on the usage of the adjective strange for the rest of the piece): a band that seemed to be more the childish gimmick of art school students suddenly started to sound great, and not just great, but consistently great over every album. Of which there are five by now, and the Dürer kert show was part of the promo tour for their latest effort, V. For everyone who is better at Roman numerals than I am, spare a thought for the day or so when I tried to figure out what the letter V in the title might stand for.

As other ’the bands’ were being disposed of in the dustbin of music history (I sometimes make odd discoveries in my last.fm playlist and need to focus very hard to recall who they are and why I listened to them in the first place), The Horrors were quietly but confidently soldiering on. Never the mainstream darlings though, the oddness wouldn’t and shouldn’t fully wear off, embodied in moments such as the end of an otherwise slightly jittery Sziget performance, when out of the blue, lead singer Faris Badwan decides to stage dive and leaps into the audience, with said audience, unprepared for the suddenness of the onslaught, parting like the Red Sea at the hands of Moses. Which might or might not coincide with Faris’s intentions in the first place, we may never know.

This time around he engaged in no such feats, and limited his otherwise diverse onstage antics to a rather disciplined stumble over the microphone stand, which he later proceeded to dismantle, sensing the inherent risk in having it around. The setlist was obviously centered around the band’s most recent album, which happens to be as close to a commercial ear candy as The Horrors are capable of, helped along by the production of Paul Epworth. As such, it feels more polished than its predecessors, yet remains recognizably within the boundaries of what we may now call the classical Horrors sound. Faris’s vocals have also become more confident, evolving towards what British music journalists love to call a croon. And an easily identifiable one at that- I probably scared several little ladies and adjacent dogs when, oddly enough, I heard a recent Hercules and Love Affair track in a Budapest corner shop and proceeded to exclaim quite loudly: ‘That’s Faris Badwan!’.

To please the nitpicky bunch, I will admit straightforwardly that the sound of Faris’s microphone was basically nonexistent, which had been a problem with the opening act as well, so it’s a bit curious that it was neither fixed, nor was the rest of the sound overly affected. And then I will re-enter the gooey fan phase and mention that I wasn’t overly bothered, since in the first row you can hear the voice straight off stage anyways, plus I always sing all the lyrics in my head- that bad, yes. The duo of tracks at the end of the main set and beginning of the encore- Still Life and Ghost happen to be on my Definitive List of Best Tracks Known to Humanity, and depending on my state, Still Life might even win. Yesterday for sure it did.

Traditional PS: I spare a thought here for Faris Badwan’s lacquered suit, complimented by make up and a see through top and commend his courage for all the choices. I am also in awe of the effort and patience it must have taken to get into the pants.

Traditional PPS: Despite my often-mentioned doubts about opening acts, hats off to The Horrors for their choice this time. Argentine-Spanish duo Mueran Humanos were very fitting sound-wise (nothing worse than an act who seems randomly parachuted on stage with no genre connection to the main one) but could have been just as enjoyable independently. Their latest record, Miseress, was recorded in Berlin and mixed in Einstürzende Neubauten’s studio, and includes a track called Mi Auto (they sing in Spanish, which is oddly refreshing) described as a ‘Kraftwerkesque fantasy homage to a car’. Their music is thus a sort of nomad global synth pop, which sounds both a bit alien and strangely familiar at the same time.

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