Neumos & The Horrors

Typically you’d title a concert review focusing on the band, but I’m having such a hard time figuring out what to write about the Horrors show I saw Thursday night, that I’m going to expand the scope a bit and talk about the venue and a bit about the Horrors albums as well.

The show was at Neumos – a historic Seattle rock club – and right up there with the Crocodile and Showbox and is one of my favorite places to see a show.  Not just in Seattle, but anywhere. There isn’t a bad spot in the place, it’s just small enough that you can be anywhere and have a good view of the stage.  The sound bounces off the walls and has nowhere to go.  Right in the heart of the Capital Hill neighborhood, it has a great nightlife on the sidewalk right outside it’s doors.  I love going to shows at Neumos.  And they always seem to have the show for that band I just heard about and really want to see.  A combo of a great place to see shows w/ a consistent lineup of great bands.  Many other good places to see shows here, but this one is special.

So, for my first Neumos show I’m posting about here, I was very much looking forward to seeing The Horrors.  They were a band that came to me from Dropbox recently and after hearing some initial stuff that I really liked, I dug into their catalog to get a feel for where they’d been.  I came to them by way of 2009’s “Primary Colours” which at first sounded like the album we’ve been waiting for Interpol to make and after a few more listens settled in as a great album up there with the other great Brit acts of a similar vein – Pulp, Blur, the Doves, etc.

The Horrors have that psychedelic, shoe-gazer sound that I love, gives them the feel of some of the great 80s goth rockers like Joy Division or the Cure.  You could say that they have a similar sound to Interpol, but there is a feeling that this comes to the Horrors with a bit more ease.  The determined psychedelic breeziness of their sound seems to flow effortlessly from them.

Just after I started listening to “Primary Colours”, the recently released “Skying” came out and that one took their wall of sound even further with the production help of Geoff Barrow from Portishead.  The sound puts them right in the neighborhood of the Verve or Pulp in quick establishment within the hallowed halls of the brit rock greats.  Kind of surprising given where they’d come from.  I had a certain expectation of them from the latest two records, but then reaching back to their earlier stuff, there were a totally different band.

Their early records are great, and each one seems to nail the sound of a band before them – the White Stripes, the Sex Pistols – great sounds to emulate and they do it well.  I don’t think I would have gotten into The Horrors as fiercely if I’d heard their earlier stuff first, it’s good, but they seem to have been meant to play the newer territory they are in.

Going into the show, I wasn’t sure which band would show up and if I could expect them to focus on the last two albums that I most wanted to hear. Thankfully they did, I don’t think they played anything but songs from their last two records.  It’s a motley crew they have up there, the lead singer is the quintessential Brit rock leading man, wiry and in command, in just the way he carries himself.  The guitarist is all shoe gazer, hair completely covering his face, hunching over his guitar, which he played with serious skill.  The keyboardist/digital-guy is the sharp dresser of the bunch, the drummer looked like the soulful one while the bassist kept the beat and was enjoying himself very much.  He took all the energy from the room and the band and he bounced along with it.

That was a bit of the problem, as good as the band sounded and as great as the music was, there wasn’t a lot of energy in the room.  For most rock shows I see in Seattle, the crowd is mostly arms folded with the occasional head nod.  I’m guilty of it too, I tend to be pretty stoic at shows, and this kind of music is typically enjoyed that way anyway.  So, the apathetic rock band played to the apathetic crowd, we all seemed happy enough, and then we went on with our lives.  I’d definitely recommend seeing The Horrors, but I think their sound would fit better outside on a nice day.  There needs to be something to counteract the seriousness of their sound.  All the pieces were aligned here, and they all fell into place, but we just pulled them apart and put them back in the box afterwards.

I’ll keep enjoying my Horrors records and you should too, but hope for a bit more from my next wall of sound show.  Please, Ambulance Ltd., come back!!!!

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