Review by Jonno Lloyd
The Horrors have been an interesting one to follow, their humble beginnings seemed to be on the cover of every magazine some 8 or 9 years ago, when their immaculately backcombed hair and matching outfits seemed to be the main selling point for the young band.
They were on my radar, but I have to say I was a bit hesitant to give them the time of day at first. Their first musical offering was interesting and had some seriously powerful moments if nothing particularly ground-breaking, definitely a good solid album though, but it all seemed a little too image focused for my liking. But then…two years after the release of the debut Strange House came Primary Colours, and the group got this psychedelic rebirth that instantly silenced any ideas that the band would soon be dismissed or forgotten. This album was brilliant in quality, in ambition and in it’s element of surprise; it came out of nowhere. It had the sound of a band who’d felt the excitement of playing live, experienced that world and had moved their interest into the studio, into really crafting something special.
Since then the Horrors have been refining this sound, making it more and more their own, culminating their impressive list of influences to form this gorgeous blend of Post Punk, Psychedelic and Electronic music. Now on album four, and after a well reported lengthy stretch in the studio The Horrors have given us Luminous, probably their most consistently strong album yet.
The album starts with the gorgeous Chasing Shadows, a track that slowly builds and builds with a wash of synths and sounds through a near three minute sparse instrumental opening before kicking in with the ever present solidarity of Joe Spurgeon and Rhys Webb’s rhythm section. On the tracks that follow, Josh Haywards heavily affected guitars and Tom Cowan’s numerous and varied synthesizers merge and blend over the tracks, a real awareness and interest in sound evident throughout, setting the band far apart from the often suffocating ‘British guitar band’ label.
This is the cleanest we’ve ever heard the crooning Faris Badwan’s voice, delivered with a new soft and clean tone that he adopts far more often than his usual baritone booming delivery. It fits perfectly for these new songs and it becomes clear that some time has been spent picking out the perfect melodies to sit over the simple chord movements that lay the framework for these huge soundscape-sounding songs.
A few tracks in it can unfortunately start to feel like the band are trying a bit too hard to create those big anthemic songs, with a formula appearing to show itself about halfway through. The rhythm section stays pretty constant throughout the album with it’s choices and the guitar/synth ‘swoopery’ rarely differs from the theme. Faris too unfortunately can fall into this trap, with his choice of chorus vocals usually opting for a couple of repeating lines, normally involving ‘you’, ‘seeing you’ or being ‘with you’. It’s a shame but it isn’t enough to ruin the album, just hold it back a bit.
That being said, there is a particular stand-out moment in ‘In and Out of Sight’ where these vocals take a rare turn for the darker side of things, accompanied by a more rhythmic synth and a solid disco beat. The more intimate verses in ‘Change Your Mind’ also act as refreshing moments towards the end of the album as well. Faris’ voice so well suits these more fragile ballad like songs, it’s a shame we couldn’t have heard more along these lines.
Despite it’s similar moments however, the album stands strong with a good set of songs and an accomplished sound. Not every track quite hits the anthemic benchmark they seem to be setting for themselves, but they continue to get closer and closer. It’s a shame that we couldn’t see a similar evolution in sound in the band’s recent discography, while Luminous is a great album, it can feel a little too similar to Skying and to Primary Colours before it as well. I had hoped to see the band continue to surprise and adapt it’s style as it went on, but things seem pretty settled for now. Still, I’m excited for the next release, and an album like this one should continue to bring The Horrors the acclaim that they deserve.