The Horrors - Luminous - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Horrors - Luminous

by David Bruggink Rating:6.5 Release Date:2014-05-05

I was kicking myself a little bit after choosing to review the new Horrors album. With accolades like "national treasures in waiting" (according to the BBC) lavished on them, what fate could befall the man to sully their string of well-received albums? I was familiar with their evolution from shouty, Halloween-party garage-rock to elegant Britpop enlivened with shoegaze textures and vibrant synthesizers, and given their tendency to avoid getting in a stylistic rut, at a minimum, I knew I could expect something different after Skying.

Skying did have some gorgeous moments, though. The elements of 'Still Life' - the backwards guitar; the confidently striding bass; the detached vocals and the nostalgia-inciting synth-lines - fit together perfectly in a way which recalled the self-assured ennui of The Verve circa Urban Hymns. While it didn't feel entirely novel, Skying did manage to hit the same pleasure-centers its influences were hitting 15 or 20 years earlier, and made me think that maybe more of this wouldn't be so bad.

If that's your point of view, you're in luck. Where each previous album felt like a departure of sorts from the album that preceded it, Luminous feels more like a continuation of Skying, dispensing with most of the post-punk and garage-rock influences in favor of widescreen new wave and neo-psychedelia.

After a three-minute introduction of subtly overlaid synthesizers, the first track, 'Chasing Shadows', bursts into a maelstrom of shoegaze guitars and pounding drums. Generally, the album sounds simply massive, filled to the brim with sonic details: pulsating synthesizer lines, echoing guitar parts, and cavernous vocal harmonies. There are some moments which feel slightly indebted to the more melancholy, earnest end of the spectrum inhabited by Cocteau Twins and New Order, but this is essentially energizing, not reflective music, even if the tempo does dip from time to time. It's a fitting soundtrack to the strobe-lit, slow-motion walk across the room at the height of the party ('Sleepwalk').

While there's no clear standout like 'Still Life,' there are some particularly memorable refrains ('I See You') and stylistic choices. The Cut Copy-reminiscent 'In and Out of Sight' cruises along on a danceable drum-beat and throbbing bass, while 'Jealous Sun' recalls the contorted guitar textures of My Bloody Valentine. On the other hand, the verse of 'Falling Star' tries to fuse a bubbly keyboard line with a distorted guitar riff which repeats to the point of annoyance, and ultimately feels disjointed. The seven-minute 'I See You' transitions halfway through into a purely instrumental track, and though it attempts to continually build up anticipation with nods to Loveless, it becomes derivative far too quickly.

If you're feeling - or want to feel - invincible, Luminous strikes me as an ideal album to put on, because it's got such little vulnerability to it; it's full of swagger and confidence like its Britpop forebears. Depending on your tastes, that may be good or bad. Personally, I hope The Horrors will show us some new sides in their next effort.

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