Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Horrors NME Awards Show @ Astoria, 16/02/2008

The Horrors + Crystal Castles + These New Puritans + Ulterior
NME Awards Show @ Astoria, 16th February

Welcome to one of the few genuinely decent line-ups on the never-ending Wagnerian nightmare that is the NME Awards Shows, the most ridiculous, turgid, self-serving piece of marketing guff since, well, the NME Awards. Sadly, Ulterior’s performance will be omitted from this review because nobody will ever convince me that the phrase ‘doors open at 5.30pm’ displays any grasp of logical reasoning. This is a real shame, because Ulterior’s Suicide-shagging-William-Reid industrial noise-drone is far too exciting to miss. Four hours of adverts for Shockwaves, Skins and Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong (a pox on that band for eating into my word count) is more than any creature equipped with opposable thumbs can bear.

These New Puritans capitalise on what must be their biggest show to date, their sound becoming truly enormous propelled by those hip hop drums and nauseating low-frequency basslines. Jack Barnett has apparently come dressed as a Norman swan in chainmail tunic of plastic feathers, his bowl cut balanced precariously on a bird-like neck. A genuinely beguiling frontman, he at least seems to be having fun – Sophie sullenly pokes around on synths, scratching her neck and fighting to stay awake through their grimy, angular onslaught. It’s genius.

The Astoria ain’t quite right for Crystal Castles dirrrty club aesthetic, but that doesn’t stop the half-term rave kids’ sugar rush as they go batshit crazy for Alice’s winged-insect-trapped-in-a-bottle stage moves. Still, the deliciously warped malignancy of ‘Alice Practice’ and fizzing sodapop electro of ‘Air War’ stand out a mile above the samey bleeps of the non-singles, which doesn’t bode well for their upcoming album.

The Horrors return to headline the Astoria barely a year after their opening slot on the Rock’n’Roll Riot Tour, another steaming delight from the NME featuring The Dykeenies, The Maccabees and The Fratellis. Christ. Tighter and louder than ever before (both sartorially and musically), they’ve come a long way since then - this set almost makes the 45 minute mark, and Faris’ inter-song banter is becoming increasingly absurd: “sing for your supper,” he snarls into the mic, cracking himself up in the process. A handful of new songs are previewed, more experimental and less obviously derived from their garage rock bread and butter, and they certainly take themselves a lot less seriously than precocious fellow Southenders TNP or the notoriously snarky Crystal Castles.

At 9.30pm the whole shebang is brought to an untimely close. The crowd scratch their heads. It’s unsettling, but at least there’s time for a pint before the tube closes.


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