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Creepy crawliesThe Horrors - Strange House
(Stolen Transmission Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 15, 2007
Review by Tony BonyataThe Horrors are one of the many new buzz bands to emerge from the UK underground, although with their own self-described assessment of their music as 'psychotic sounds for freaks and weirdos' it's unlikely that this five-piece act will be mustering up any type of similar success here in the States.
On their debut album, Strange House, the band taps into the harder, nosier side of mid-'60s U.S. garage rock. Not only have they chosen to kick-off their record with a raunchy cover of shock-rock instigator Screaming Lord Sutch's '60s nugget "Jack The Ripper" (a song which The Whites Stripes have also been known to pepper into their live shows), but the dearth and manic tension that cloaks the majority of this effort is strangely familiar to two of punk rock's earliest progenitors - The Sonics and The Seeds.
Despite the obvious connections to '60s garage rock, much of the record is also shadowed in early '80s Goth rock. On "Draw Japan" and "Thunderclaps" lead vocalist Farris Rotter summons up the deep, dark croon of Bauhaus' own vampyric vocalist Peter Murphy, while at other moments his barks and venomous yelps recall Nick Cave when he fronted his volatile post-punk band The Birthday Party.
Fueled by spastic rhythms, dark themes and antagonistic guitars (that take on an even more distinct sound as guitarist Joshua Third crafts his own guitar pedals), the creepiest element of The Horrors' music, however, is the often-hallucinogenic effect from keyboardist Spider Webb's eerie electric combo organ. Songs such as the instrumental "Gil Sleeping" and the bombastic "Count In Fives" find Webb's organ adding both a disorienting and deviated effect to the music.
If you're a fan of the darker stuff from '60s Nuggets-era garage rock, or the subversive post-punk of bands such as The Birthday Party and The Cramps, or even the early Goth and glam rock of Bauhaus, then this creepy platter should be right up your alley. For most others, however, passageways as dark as this are probably best avoided.
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