XL Recordings; 2014
Release date: 5 May 2014
If you’re wondering what makes The Horrors stand out from the current crop of guitar-toting UK ‘indie-rock’ acts, then this quote from frontman Faris Badwan regarding why the release of Luminous was delayed will explain it:
We basically had the choice between finishing the record and it being one way, or giving it a few more months and it being substantially better. Albums last forever, there’s no point rushing it.
The Horrors are a band who know the value of putting together a body of work, rather than churning out quick ‘hype’ albums in a bid to stay relevant (Peace, take note!)
What this patience and dedication leads to is a gradual, but rewarding, development and progression. In The Horrors’ case, they’ve gone from the sinister and one-dimensional cartoon goth-punk of debut Strange House to the epic, synth-led majesty of this, their fourth album. In-between is a discernable progression through styles and approaches, as the band have given themselves the freedom to experiment with new ideas and incorporate them into their sound.
Personally, I thought The Horrors had hit their creative peak with 2011’s Skying – but Luminous eclipses even that. Next to this album, Skying now just looks like the stepping stone to greater things.
A track-by-track review of Luminous wouldn’t really do it justice, as the album seems to live and breathe as one entity – but I’ll try and pick out some highlights.
I’m guessing you’ve already heard ‘I See You’ and ‘So Now You Know’? They’re both typical of Luminous as a whole – building up slowly into intense, epic, slightly psychedelic wig outs that hold more texture and nuance than most bands can get into their entire back-catalogue.
‘First Day Of Spring’ has a driving, swirling psychedelic momentum not unlike Tame Impala, while ‘In And Out Of Sight’ is based on a relentlessly shimmering groove that has echoes of New Order and is sure to be a big hit with the remixers over the summer. Both tracks seem to share a common ancestor in Skying’s ‘Moving Further Away’, and both are prime examples of how The Horrors have spread their wings further since that album in terms of scope and imagination.
‘Jealous Sun’ continues in the same vein, but brings some of The Horrors’ Strange House and Primary Colours history along for the ride, with a dark guitar riff competing with swirling synths and Faris’ quasi-spiritual chorus: “Don’t let it all slide away / Under jealous sun now”. Along with ‘Falling Star’, it’s the closest Luminous comes to a ‘traditional’ pop song structure. Not that that is a problem. The thing that makes the album so absorbing is the brilliantly balanced production which allows songs like ‘In And Out Of Sight’ and ‘I See You’ the time and space to expand and grow, without ever feeling too heavy or over-produced.
After the slightly Smiths-sounding ‘Change Your Mind’, which features reflective Morrissey-esque lyrics like “Do you look at him the way she looks at me”, Luminous turns it up a notch for a grand finale. ‘Mine And Yours’ is nothing short of astounding, sticking a piercing guitar line reminiscent of Simple Minds slap bang in the middle of a restless, dramatic crowd-pleaser which even seems to get Faris leaning forward in excitement as he roars: “I’ve been thinking about the one I love…”.
The best is left til last in the shape of ‘Sleepwalk’. Majestic is pretty much the only word I can think of to explain it. As a final song it sums up the album perfectly – well paced, confident, assured and epically brilliant.
Luminous is out on XL Recordings on 5 May. Preorder it below: