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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Horrors blast the Echo with their retro sound

March 21, 2007|Mikael Wood | Special to The Times

Amy Winehouse wasn't the only big-haired Brit in town Monday night. While the sassy UK soul siren seduced an audience of industry insiders at the Roxy, a blog-buzzed young act called the Horrors -- led by singer Faris Badwan, who looks like "The Simpsons' " Montgomery Burns beneath a nest of back-combed black hair -- ripped through a 20-minute headlining set at the Echo to the delight of a pierced-and-inked crowd happy to disobey the club's no-moshing rule.

Like Winehouse, the Horrors are fascinated by yesterday's sounds: On the group's debut, "Strange House" (due for U.S. release in May), the five-piece updates grinding garage-punk for the ADD generation; the songs are short, sharp blasts of teenage anxiety, full of nightmare shrieks and creep-show organ.

Onstage, the band's love of history presented itself in Victorian-era costumes. (Style is utmost to the Horrors, which first gained attention with the striking, Chris Cunninghamdirected clip for the band's single "Sheena Is a Parasite," in which Samantha Morton dances so hard her intestines fall out.)

Though "Strange House" does feature a memorable tune or two, the band's live show is less about songs than violence and chaos (and, of course, hair). The sound at the Echo was murky and undefined; occasionally a recognizable riff would surface, then quickly recede back into the thick sonic soup. Most of the time the band sounded like some ominous machine, a throbbing relic of its beloved Industrial Revolution. When Badwan dived out into the audience (which he did repeatedly), he almost seemed to be trying to escape the din roaring behind him.

The Horrors have established an expectation of onstage destruction thanks to well publicized antics at gigs in New York and Boston. (Last week Badwan was ejected from a Boston club mid-set for smashing an Elvis Presley statue.) Perhaps a bit desperate to please, on Monday Badwan made his way to the bar after seven songs, swiped the drink-condiments tray and showered his fans in lemon wedges and maraschino cherries. Then the band took off. Winehouse, a career boozer, would have been proud.

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