With its focus on psychedelic pop and sweeping 80’s synth, The Horrors long-awaited fourth album ‘Luminous’ doesn’t disappoint. Picking up where 2011’s ‘Skying’ left off, Luminous compels the listener to strap in and enjoy the toe-tapping ride. Indeed, this is The Horrors at their show-stopping best.
It is clear as one listens to The Horrors’ latest offering that they have confidently and unashamedly embraced the sound that they adopted on ‘Skying’. That sound however, is bigger, turned up. It is never certain throughout the album where that sound will take you and this unpredictability is what breathes originality into the LP. Although creating the sweeping synth/guitar blended pop that ‘Luminous’ is based around, synthesiser player Tom Cowan and guitarist Joshua Hayward at times run the risk of going off on a prog rock inspired, nonsensical jam. Like different pieces in a puzzle however, bassist Rhys Webb and drummer Joe Spurgeon ensure that, with steady assuredness the album sticks together and makes sense.
The opening track, ‘Chasing Shadows’ begins with 3 minutes of tense synth preparation before boldly setting the scene by dropping a hopelessly optimistic beat. It is a triumphant opening, but is ultimately a hard act to follow. Miraculously, the subsequent tracks do a good job in continuing the dreamy aesthetic of ‘Luminous’, although there is certainly an air of slight repetitiveness throughout the early half of the album that doesn’t, thankfully detract from the quality of each track.
The juxtaposition between Faris Badwan’s melancholic voice and the synth and guitar based pop that surrounds it is a significant positive aspect throughout the album. Nowhere does this feel more evident than on ‘So Now You Know’ where Badwan’s lyrics create a catchy, albeit simple feeling that seems perfectly suited to the mystical nature of the track. On ‘Jealous Sun’ and the brilliant ‘I See You’, the electronic beats are once more placed at the musical forefront and it feels as though these tracks do exactly as they were meant to by taking the listener on a sprawling voyage that is by no means limited in scope.
The final three tracks perfectly conclude the LP with a more measured pace after the beautifully chaotic nature of the earlier parts of the album. ‘Change Your Mind’, with its slow beat and mesmerising vocals is a marked, but refreshing change and it’s easy to lose yourself in the atmospheric synth during the latter half of the song. ‘Mine and Yours’ continues this feeling of blissful conclusion, but ‘Sleepwalk’ really shines as a psychedelic end to the LP that puts one in mind of Tame Implala’s ‘Lonerism’.
Ultimately, Luminous is easy to dismiss as ‘Skying’ 2.0, and I’m sure many will feel that the album is too familiar to be considered an especially unique piece of musical art. However, it is a wonderfully refreshing album that shows The Horrors as having far more insight and vision than many would have given them credit for back in 2006. Perhaps the future of British guitar music isn’t so bleak after all. Don't tell the NME we said that.
Words: Tom Russell