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Music / The Horrors

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The band during their iconic Strange House era. Left to right: Joe, Rhys, Faris, Tom, Joshua.

The Horrors are a band of eclectic stylings based in Southend-on-Sea, England, and founded on their mutual fascination with vastly different genres of music and their hobbies of collecting vinyl records. Their debut album, Strange House, brought them tons of media attention through their unique image, their varied and unlikely influences (from Joy Division and Bauhaus to Iggy Pop to The Gun Club to Kraftwerk) and the fact that they simply didn’t care as to what people thought of them. Their stressful stint as an opening act for Arctic Monkeys in 2006 made apparent the potential of the frontman, Faris Badwan, for violence and general antipathy toward the audience. Notable examples include scaling everything in sight, hurling paint buckets and trash cans into the crowd, and threatening the audience with rocks and large pieces of glass.
The Horrors, present day. Note the lack of eyeshadow.

The band cleaned up their act both literally and figuratively with their second album, Primary Colours, nominated for a Mercury Prize and generally considered their best by fans and critics alike. Their image became less overtly gothic, and their sound, while still known for its eclecticism, became heavily influenced by Shoegaze and Psychedelic Rock. Tom Cowan picked up the synthesizers and Rhys Webb took his place as bassist. They followed up with the non-album single ''Whole New Way’’.

Their third album, Skying, was a Lighter and Softer variant on the sound shown in Primary Colours. It gained critical acclaim in the British indie and alternative scene, leading to the band winning the NME award for Album of the Year 2012 (despite the fact that 2012 had barely begun when they won it).

Faris Badwan has done numerous musical side projects, most notably Cat’s Eyes with Canadian opera singer (and possible girlfriend) Rachel Zeffira. He is also an avid visual artist and has had two art exhibits, Drawing A Straight Number 9 and Creatures in Colour. is also a talented soccer/football player (the latter much to people’s surprise). Bassist Rhys Webb and synth player Tom Cowan have collaborated on a side project under the name Spider and the Flies, and have released a self-titled EP.

If you ever see them live, don't ask them to play anything from ''Strange House''.

Their lineup consists of:

  • Faris Badwan (aka Faris Rotter): vocals, lyrics
  • Joshua Hayward (aka Joshua Von Grimm and Joshua Third): guitar
  • Tom Furse (aka Tom Cowan): keyboards; bassist during Strange House era
  • Rhys Webb (aka Spider Webb): bass/backing vocals; organist/keyboardist during Strange House era
  • Joe Spurgeon (aka Coffin Joe): drums

Album/EP Discography:

  • The Horrors EP (2006)
  • Strange House (2007)
  • Primary Colours (2009)
  • Skying (2011)
  • Luminous (2014)
  • V (2017)
  • Lout EP (2021)
  • Against the Blade EP (2021)

This band and their songs/albums provide examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: Possibly what happens in the video for “Changing The Rain”, if it wasn’t a drug trip.
  • Anti-Love Song: “She Is The New Thing”, “Death At The Chapel”, “Mirror’s Image”, and “Monica Gems”.
  • Artifact Title: The band’s very name. They’re not as theatrically gothic as they once were. It was said at one point, however, that the name wasn't intended to invoke horrific images. Rather, it was intended along the lines of a pet name (e.g. "Mummy's little horror").
  • Band of Relatives:
    • In-laws, technically. Joe is engaged to Rhys' sister.
    • Tom also went out with Joe's sister for some time.
  • Based on a True Story: “Sister Leonella” was real, and the lyrics tell the story of her assassination.
  • Body Horror:
    • The “Sheena Is A Parasite” video. What is that… slimy thing coming out of Sheena’s dress and getting its juices all over the camera? It’s a rotting squid.
    • The stanza towards the end of "Gloves":
    A hand through my ribcage / Past the choking, I saw palms and fingers grasping / shoulders, collarbone crushing / I imagined myself hacking desperately at a sea of appendages / forward and right, freeing myself like a butcher / feeling the mash of bone and sinew / slowly running down the front of my body / and I couldn't take it anymore.
  • Careful with That Axe: Faris did this in spades during Strange House. He has since toned it down considerably.
  • Cover Version:
    • “Jack The Ripper”, originally a song by Screaming Lord Sutch, covered once on their eponymous debut EP and again, differently arranged, as the opener on Strange House.
    • “Crawdaddy Simone”, originally by The Syndicats, also on their self-titled EP.
    • Joy Division’s “No Love Lost”, live.
    • "Umbrella" by Rihanna.
    • David Bowie's "Suffragette City" and Beyoncé's "Best Thing You Never Had".
  • Cute Little Fangs: Joshua’s got very noticeable dogteeth.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lout and Against the Blade.
  • Dream Pop: Incorporated into their sound with Skying
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In “Excellent Choice”, main character Morgan decides to end his fruitless life by calmly laying himself out on the train tracks and waiting for the next train to come by and kill him.
    • "Dive In".
  • Echoing Acoustics: Starting with Primary Colours and continuing into Skying and beyond.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • "I Only Think Of You" - 7:09;
    • “Sea Within A Sea” - 7:59;
    • "Moving Further Away" - 8:34, presently the band's longest song;
    • "Oceans Burning" - 7:50;
    • "I See You" - 7:26;
    • "Hologram" - 6:04
    • "Weighed Down" - 6:31
    • "Something to Remember Me By" - 6:40
  • Epileptic Flashing Lights: In the video for “Sheena Is A Parasite”: the reason it got banned from MTV and British television.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow: An element of the band’s Strange House image. Not so much evil as theatrical and sinister, but definitely excessive, and definitely eyeshadow.
  • Goth Rock:
    • The entirety of Strange House mixes this with Garage Rock and a bit of surf and 60's pop.
    • "New Ice Age" and "I Only Think Of You" from Primary Colours.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: In the “Whole New Way” video. They sure are cool, but no purpose is ever explicitly given to them (unless they’re a metaphor or something).
  • Hates Being Touched: Faris, most of the time. He also hates being photographed without permission.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The girl in the "Sheena is a Parasite" video appears to be one of these.
  • Instrumentals: “Gil Sleeping”.
  • Lighter and Softer: Skying.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: When Joshua has long hair, this trope often comes into effect.
  • Looks Like Cesare: An element of the band’s Strange House image.
  • Miniscule Rocking:
    • “Sheena Is A Parasite” is under two minutes long, but is still one of the band’s best-known songs.
    • "Death at the Chapel" is barely longer.
  • Motor Mouth:
    • Faris Badwan occasionally during Strange House.
    • Rhys Webb is a notorious chatterbox.
    • The narration in "Excellent Choice".
  • Genre Mashup:
    • Strange House is a mixture of Goth rock, Deathrock and garage punk with strains of sixties pop.
    • Primary Colours and Skying mix together elements of shoegaze, plain-ol’ alternative rock, Krautrock, and post-punk. Psychedelic rock becomes more prominent with Skying.
    • Luminous adds danceable electronics to their sound.
    • V introduces synth-pop and industrial elements into their music.
    • The Lout and Against the Blade EPs saw the band go full industrial.
  • New Sound Album: Primary Colours, and to an extent Skying. The Lout EP switches the band's up to full-on Industrial Metal.
  • Obsession Song:
  • One-Woman Song: "Monica Gems".
  • Performance Video: A great number of their videos. Twists on the concept are:
    • One of the videos to “Count In Fives” mixes the live-action band members with scrawled animations.
    • “Sheena Is A Parasite” is particularly nightmarish.
    • "Mirror's Image" has the band perform against a psychedelic backdrop, and the video bitrate is intentionally low.
    • Done minimalistically with “Sea Within A Sea”.
    • Interspersed with stock footage and psychedelic effects for “Still Life”.
  • Preppy Name: Thomas Furse Fairfax Cowan and Rhys Timothy Somerset Webb.
  • Psychedelic Rock: Heavily influences the band as of Skying.
  • Scenery Porn: The “Whole New Way” video.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: During Strange House, their getup was downright Victorian Gothic at points. It still applies to their wardrobe today; Tom Cowan is consistently the suavest of the bunch.
  • Shoegazing: Began with Primary Colours, placing them among Darker and Edgier Shoegaze revivalists of the 2000s. Skying went with a Lighter and Softer, Dream Pop-based Shoegazing sound.
  • Shout-Out: Their career is rife with them, what with the members very invested in music from a young age. They continue to lift elements as they please from various artists and songs as a way of both enjoying themselves and paying respects to their favorite groups.
    • “Sheena Is A Parasite” is a Shout-Out to The Ramones' song “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”. This makes more sense when you realize that the song is actually a short allegory of the history of punk rock.
    • Faris lifts lines from the Jay and the Americans song “She Cried” for the bridge of “Who Can Say”.
    • “Monica Gems” is one to Sixties Psychedelic Rock.
    • The band repainted their studio floor orange and blue stripes in homage to Syd Barret.
  • Soprano and Gravel: "Still Life", in the live version featuring Florence Welch.
  • Sound-Only Death: A variant in “Excellent Choice”. The train heard from a distance is implied to be the one that runs Morgan over at the end.
  • Spoken Word in Music: “Excellent Choice”.
  • Stage Names: Part of the band’s Strange House image. Back then, they were known as Faris Rotter, Joshua von Grimm (or Joshua Third), Tomethy Furse, Spider Webb, and Coffin Joe.
  • Surreal Music Video
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: And stick-legged, too. Everyone during Strange House, with the possible exception of Joshua; Faris, Tom, and Joe are the closest to fitting the trope these days.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Faris.
  • Textless Album Cover:
    • Strange House
    • Primary Colours, although a sticker is placed in the corner to aid the ignorant.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Point of No Reply"
  • Tick Tock Tune: "New Ice Age".
    In a frosted stopwatch, time is ticking.
    Tick-tick-tick-tick DEAD.
  • Train Song: “A Train Roars”.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Worn often during the Strange House era.
  • Wild Hair: Faris and Joshua during the Strange House era.