CD Review of Strange House by The Horrors
Recommended if you like
The Cramps, Bauhaus, The Cure
Label
Stolen Transmission
The Horrors:
Strange House

Reviewed by Jason Thompson

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W
hat motivates an artist or band to make trenchantly bad music? Yes, one’s taste in music is subjective, and the same band that instills nausea in one listener can elicit joy in the next. That’s the beauty of the whole game. Of course, every now and then someone comes along and releases a giant blockbuster of an album that seems to win the entire world over. It doesn’t happen often, and maybe it hasn’t happened since Thriller, but you get the idea. Still, you have to wonder about those who choose to go down the path that will probably leave a bad taste in the mouth.

“But that’s just the artist doing what he wants…being original and true to himself.” Yes, you could argue that, but you could also argue that Celine Dion always means well, too. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like anyone in the Horrors is being original and/or true to themselves. What we have here is grade-Z Goth goofiness mixed up with a little garage noise. The band members wear mascara. They subtitled this album “Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdos.” So they’re going for that audience that feels out of place, but ultimately makes themselves part of the place by being fashionably fake in their own dime store Goth get up and angst that they borrowed from the kids who left the costumes behind 10 years ago and finished college and got a job.

To sum up the Horrors’ sound in one word: bullshit. Of course, they’d probably be delighted with this summation and agree just to be “twisted.” But really, beyond the ripped-off Robert Smith ‘dos, the black leather and the Bauhaus pose, you have a whole lot of nada. Sure, if the idea of “creepy” pop that sounds like it was written in a county fair funhouse sounds up your alley, then go ahead and give these lads a try. You may find something to relate to in the likes of “Sheena is a Parasite” or “Count in Fives.”

Yes, some pudgy, chain smoking 17-year-old female vamp fetishist will undoubtedly find something to fantasize to here, as well as the same-aged beanpole male Goth lurking in the New Age section of Barnes and Noble, just daring you to say something to him with your hateful eyes. Yet both of these kids know that they can escape “normality” by cranking out the ol’ Horrors and diving into a song like “She is the New Thing” complete with spook house organ, dopey sound effects, and straining to sound like they’d be relevant next to the Seeds or Standells.

Indeed, what does drive a band to become such a dull commodity that they are sure to fall into the great pit of The Forgotten (how’s that for angsty labeling) and not be around in a year’s time? The band will break up, undoubtedly. Some members will find themselves suddenly working at Sears, while others form a new band that pays tribute to Level 42 in its sound, desperately trying to get away from the sludge they created under the Horrors’ moniker. Yet someone out there likes this. Someone out there undoubtedly plays this CD every day of the week. Someone has even seen the band live and lived to tell about it. If you’re ready to take the plunge into the plastic escape with no deposit, no return rewards, then have yourself a grand little ball with the Horrors.

The best these guys could have done was have a product tie-in with Count Chocula cereal. If they had wanted a mass audience, they couldn’t have gone wrong hooking up with General Mills and signing away a contract (in blood) and having Strange House affixed to the front of every cereal box. That way, the milk would turn chocolaty and the morning would be ruined. Hooray for the fun house.

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