ny way you look at it, Strange House is a failure. After the boggling superlatives and hyperbole bandied around about the band—an NME cover after two very limited singles, phrases like “the most exciting British band since the Sex Pistols,” five-star reviews in broadsheet newspapers, a video directed by Chris Cunningham, signing to Island Def Jam in the States—their debut album charted at a less-than-impressive #37 in the UK last week. As with Gay Dad before them, a media-led shitstorm has amounted to only modest success.
Formed amidst the conceivably contrived Junk Club in the basement of Southend’s Royal Hotel, The Horrors are led by singer Farris Rotter and guitarist Joshua Von Grimm, augmented by a bassist, organist, and drummer each gifted with a more remarkably silly name than the last (organist Spider Webb is actually called Rhys Webb—see what they did there?). They have songs called things like “Jack The Ripper” that are constructed from big, lumbering gothic bass and drums topped with spirals of neo-psychedelic guitar, repetitive organ riffs, and shouting. Again, like Gay Dad, their folly is that they are neither brilliant nor awful, merely mediocre.
We all know there was never any chance of them living up to the rabid proclamations of their excellence, nor, in these hyper-media-savvy post-postmodern (now that Baudrillard is dead we really need a new schtick) times, could they possibly stand any chance of actually causing the type of cultural realignment that music hacks of a certain age are so keen on reminding us that punk brought about. The best we could hope for is that they’d be bad enough to laugh at, but they don’t even have the good grace to be awful.
And beyond that, there really isn’t a lot to say. Behind the stupidly big hair, infertility-inducing skinny black jeans and “shocking” posturing, The Horrors are essentially just another trendy guitar band with half-a-dozen ham-fisted hooks, even if they do drop in some Tom Waits-esque spoken-word narrative ramblings in “Excellent Choice,” giving faint promise that their ideas about music might outnumber their ideas about tailors. Their website and PR blurb proclaims them to be “psychotic sounds for freaks and weirdoes,” but the band themselves seem to be about 10% as deranged as Britney Spears. How is causing $10,000 (about £14.56 in sterling) worth of damage in a “near riot” at a gig even remotely exciting anymore? The Horrors aren’t horrifying and Strange House is nowhere near strange enough.