Alex Turner, my musical hero who will no doubt grace the caverns of this blog many a time, made a compilation for the jukebox in The Bowery, a pub in Sheffield that Arctic Monkeys ex-bassist, Andy Nicholson, and reigning drummer, Matt Helders opened in 2008. In 2010 or so, a friend who had visited the pub posted a photo of Al’s compilation to our internet forum.
In addition to giving me a catalog of his own roughly 100 songs that are all my most beloved, through this compilation Alex gave me “Draw Japan” by The Horrors. It didn’t take long for me to start noticing him wearing their totally sweet – and forever coveted by me – “I Am a Horror” shirt, or the rad football scarf with the roses. He’d perhaps unintentionally informed me that I should be paying attention to this band, so I started to listen, and I fell hard for them.
Purely out of interest, I wish I could know how many times I’ve listened to their 2009 release “Primary Colours.” I don’t think my Last.FM would be accurate in this case, because I had that album on every .mp3 player I owned and would spend hours with it. I remember thinking that I had never heard anything like it. I remember going to England to study abroad and playing “I Only Think of You” while I sat in my window and looked down at the Trinity College dining hall with a breeze blowing through the slightly ajar window on one of my first nights there.
I remember the first time I saw the music video for “Who Can Say” – the dark-yet-whimsical Faris at the microphone aesthetic, particularly during the spoken part in the middle (and when I told her I didn’t love her anymore, she cried/and when I told her her kisses were not like before, she cried/and when I told her another girl had caught my eye, she cried/and I kissed her with a kiss that could only mean, goodbye), was so reminiscent of a Gothic school prom, that it actually made me laugh. The image has yet to leave my head and I’ve never stopped getting a rush of adrenaline when the synth kicks in after that “goodbye.” It’s a perfect example of when the words in a sentence end, but the music behind it serves to say something else.
I want to enumerate what The Horrors mean to me and really break it down, but the only way I can think to do so is to share two words: “Scarlet Fields.” That song is in every way the all-encompassing summary of why I love them, why they have not left my mind for nearly a decade, etc. If I had to elaborate beyond that – I mean, if I were really forced – I’d say that I didn’t believe or want to believe the journalists who said that their second single from 2017’s V, “Something to Remember Me By” was the best song they had ever made… and then I heard it. It completely and totally blew my mind. It is flawless.
The Horrors are endlessly cool and very, very good live. They’re also stupid hard to photograph because they’re all twenty feet tall and have extremely harsh lighting. So the above ended up being my most useful shot. It is obviously significant distorted, but in that way it’s actually a perfect representation of them.
I loved this show. I loved the way it felt to be pressed against the stage, dodging the reckless whip of Faris Badwan’s microphone cord. Hearing the girl behind me sing along in perfect time. Playfully shaking my limbs in unison with my show companion, the only other person I’ve met in real life but not through Arctic Monkeys who knew of The Horrors – he even saw them before I did! Staring at the scar on Tom Furse’s cheek from across the room. Closing my eyes and being hit with a wall of sound.
And when the last song played out and they left the stage, I (all but) cried.