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— by James Montgomery

Perhaps you remember the Horrors as the tight-trousered Brit quintet with the penchant for spooky-ooky goth clothing, mile-high hair and vintage 45s. You know, the ones who've become the dead-eye posterboys for London's burgeoning goth-garage scene and who landed a cover of Britain's NME with a single EP to their name.

Not ringing a bell? Well, maybe you remember them as the band whose lead singer got the crap beat out of him onstage by a drunken heckler during the CMJ Music Marathon in NYC a month or so ago (see "Horrors Frontman Tempts Fate, Gets Onstage Beatdown").

Regardless, it's been a rather hectic 12 months for the Horrors — going from record-collecting misfits to magazine cover boys in the bat of a heavily powdered eye. And no matter how you choose to remember them, it's certain they'll make an impression of some sort. They tend to do that with everyone.

"Most of us come from these really small, really boring towns. Towns like Rugby or South End [England], like, formerly grand towns that have sort of fallen into disrepair. Very gray and bleak, and there's not a great deal to do," organist Spider Webb sighed. "And we were all into weird music and dressing in a way that put a lot of people off. We were all complete outcasts. So we all ended up starting our own nights [at clubs], and we had our own kind of scene thing going on, and all the freaks started to come out of the woodwork. People were dressing in Victorian or Gothic styles, and it made a lot of people very wary. A lot of people started getting very angry."

And that's putting it lightly, because you'd be hard-pressed to find another band working today that divides people quite like the Horrors do. Supporters of the five lads — frontman Faris "Rotter" Badwan, guitarist Joshua Von Grimm, bassist Tomethy Furse, Webb and drummer Coffin Joe — adopt the band's dandy goth stylings and pack their hectic live sets. Detractors, on the other hand, point to the group's relative (OK, near complete) lack of a back catalog, meteoric rise to fame and manner of dress as telltale signs that the band is more style than substance.

And, to be honest, the Horrors can see both sides of the argument.

"I can understand how people may be offended by us and by our success, because, well, everything's really accelerated." Badwan said. "Because we started a scene, we always had places to play, and it just kept going. And when there's a scene, there's gonna be label scouts out, because there are lots of bands to see and lots of places to go.

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"But what I can't — and won't — understand is why people give us sh-- for the way we dress," he continued. "We've never changed how we look. We don't compromise our music to get on the radio. And we're not going to change our dress to stop people from hassling us. It's irrelevant."

Badwan knows about the hassle all too well. In August, he was beaten up on the streets of London for "looking like a girl." And then, in October, as the Horrors were playing their first round of U.S. dates in support of their self-titled EP, he was attacked again, this time by a rowdy patron at NYC's Stereo club.

But not even the threat of physical violence is going to stop the band from continuing to push people's buttons. They're working on a full-length record, logging studio time with Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner ("He gets what we're doing, and it's been quite natural," Webb enthused), and they're hoping to get a Chris Cunningham-directed video for their first single, "Sheena Is a Parasite," onto airwaves soon.

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See, much like everything else the Horrors do, the clip — which features actress Samantha Morton, pounds of rotting squid and some serious strobe action — has already rubbed some the wrong way (it was banned by MTV UK, though more for the seizure-inducing strobe lights than the actual content).

"It's amazing how many people just thought we were trying to get some sort of publicity stunt. But why would we not want to show our first video on air?" Badwan wondered. "And we went through hell to make it. Chris shot it in his kitchen, and he kept all the dead squids in his fridge. It was in the height of summer, and when you walked into the kitchen, it was kind of like walking into a wall of heat and the stench of rotting squid. It was revolting, to be honest."


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   Photo: Island Records