The Horrors: Carling Academy 2, iverpool & Club Academy, Manchester: Fri 23 March & Sat 24 March

The Horrors: Carling Academy 2, iverpool & Club Academy, Manchester: Fri 23 March & Sat 24 March

For two weeks they unleashed hell on a terrified America, but how do Britain’s shock-rock five fare back on home turf?

Far be it from us to generalise about a nation of over 300million people, but America is a country full of easily scared, lily-livered wimps. If a bit of innocent bin-throwing and bar-trashing gets their hackles up, then God knows how they sleep on a normal night living in fear of the boogieman. The Horrors might have sent a shiver down the spine of America during their recent trip across the pond, but we know these supposedly unhinged rock’n’roll kiddie-scarers wouldn’t dare hurt a fly – not even if it took the piss out of their jeans.

“Poofs,” shouts a passer-by. “Ooh, you’re bloody horrifying,” cat-calls another. “Look at them, they must be anorexics!” adds a third. The Horrors are sauntering through the mean, and unnervingly clean, streets of Manchester, hanging around the entrance to Affleck’s Palace, essentially a vertical, indoor version of Camden Market – the only place in town to pick up stompy goth boots, vintage dresses with sweat stains and bongs made of raffia. Comprising legs longer than any supermodel, with sprayed on black denim, cloud-scraping or slickly bowl-cut black hair, and, in the case of Spider Webb,a rather natty black cloak’n’beret combo they’re rather easy to spot. To be honest, with such a distinguishable get-up, they are asking for it; if the drummer from Kasabian, the bassist from Maximo Park and one of the minor Kaiser Chiefs all went gallivanting around on a Saturday afternoon shopping trip, not even the most ardent indie fan would bat an eyelid, but when you’re in the presence of a Horror, you know you’re in the presence of a Horror.

Rewind 15 hours, and to Liverpool.Just after they’ve touched down back in the UK following two-and-a-half crazed weeks in the US – which saw them demolish SXSW, strut up Sunset Strip and bring New York’s Bowery Ballroom to its knees – The Horrors congregate in their dressing room, pre-show, checking their MySpace pages and savouring their first chance in weeks to sit down and do absolutely bugger all. But, such respite isn’t allowed for long, because upstairs the Merseyside crowd, which includes goth pop also-ran Betty Curse, are baying for blood. And blood, along with flashing lights, onstage terror and larynx-shredding, is what The Horrors know best.

The boys pile on to the sticky stage and a front row solidly made up of screaming girls – like some early-’90s New Kids On The Block crowd except with more plastic jewellery and kohl-smeared faces – swoons as one. The buzzsaw howls of the band’s guitars and organs soon drown out the hormonal moans, and Faris Rotter begins to butchly shriek his way through one of the shortest headline sets we’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. The band rattle their way through taut, razor-sharp versions of ‘Gloves’, ‘Count In Fives’ and ‘Sheena Is A Parasite’, while strobes flashing through the venue make the whole thing look like a stop-frame animation from some trashy ’60s B-movie.

After 25 minutes of madness, in which Faris becomes tangled up in blue plastic, it’s all over. Then suddenly a Horrors first and, we are firmly told, a Horrors last, takes place: the band come back for an encore. Yep, you heard us right, The Horrors play a frickin’ encore… the short, sharp shockers of sucker-punch punk go all U2 and bring on the corny stage antics. Faris louchly swaggers back on to the stage, minus the fetching white cardigan he was sporting before, and leads his compadres in a frantic rendition of ‘Death At The Chapel’ – played, like the rest of the set, at double speed.

Things don’t stop there though – The Horrors are the band that just keep on giving. Ever eager to share their mighty record collection with their fans, and anyone else who happens to be passing through the local indie disco, the band hot-foot it down to the Catfight Club at the Barfly, where Faris entertains the masses with his selection of girl-group wonders and grind-pop obscurities. Things, however, don’t quite run to plan. Vinyl purist Spider Webb is already shaking his head when he discovers that Faris intends to DJ with CDs and when said CDs start skipping and randomly looping during Faris’ set… “Well, what do you expect?” he says sagely. “CD DJs deserve everything they get.”

So, back to standing out in Manchester, and the band do what every hard-working Brit does of a weekend afternoon – hit the shops. “Everyone says we’re all Dior-clad hipsters,” starts Spider, “but we’re all about Primark really.” There is really no sight in the world more incongruous than that of Joshua Von Grimm and Faris Rotter sloping about the huge Manchester branch of the bargain mecca, rifling through rail upon rail of cheapo attire in search of a damn good fashion deal – apart from maybe that of the middle-aged mother who accosts Josh and asks him ever so politely for an autograph. She says it’s for her daughter, but we know a closet Horrors fan when we see one.

At the night’s gig the crowd are polished to perfection in waistcoats and frock shirts –a beautiful mess of eyes, hair and tits, jointly on the pull for The Horrors, and pumping out enough pheromones to floor even the most ardent admirers of the opposite sex. Faris begins by dishing out black balloons to the crowd before the slow, sultry ‘Jack The Ripper’ descends into a swirling cacophony, and sees Faris swinging from the pipes on the ceiling, looking disconcertingly like a corpse hanging from a noose. Tonight ‘Excellent Choice’ gets an airing for the first time in a few months, but ‘She Is The New Thing’ goes down the best in the rump-pit – it’s a down-and-dirty slice of horny garage blues that gets Manchester so excited that at least one member of the audience decides to get naked, post-show. Drummer Coffin Joe is visibly shaken as he returns to the dressing room, recounting the tale of a woman unleashing a lone breast and begging him to scrawl the words ‘I Fuckin’ Love It’ on her bare bosom. “She just popped it out before I could do anything,” he says, aghast. But just when we were thinking that these boys were just too damn nice for words, it turns out that Faris has disappeared into the night with some contraband pepper spray smuggled back from the US and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. That’s the spirit.

Leonie Cooper