Luminous, the band’s fourth album, is a milestone in The Horrors’ never-ending quest for self-improvement, and although it doesn’t see as bigger redirection as we’ve witnessed from their past two albums, they’ve almost certainly released their finest set of tracks to date.
The Horrors are an odd breed, really. Monumental shifts in style aren’t very common these days and it’s even rarer when it’s a success (Cold War Kids, I’m looking at you) It’s almost impossible to talk about the Horrors without mentioning their first album Strange House, a dark garage album teeming with heavy riffs and sinister imagery, and their subsequent journey.
Primary Colours and Skying came next, turning the cartoony gothic band, hailing from Southend, into masters of psychedelic synths, drawing inspiration from Simple Minds and New Order. Their experimental nature set them aside from almost all other UK bands, and so it was no real surprise that we learned last year that they were scrapping their work for Luminous and starting afresh. Despite initial disappointment about the delay, after one listen of Luminous you soon realise it was all undeniably worth it. You just know that in the studio they’re obsessive perfectionists, and so it made sense for them to feel 100% right about the album before releasing it. Here’s what frontman Faris Badwan said about the delay:
“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.”
‘Chasing Shadows’ kicks off the album with an eventual searing drone that the Horrors have all but trademarked and straight away you know the direction this album is heading. ‘First Day of Spring’ drives forward with its striking riff while ‘So Now You Know’ is slow and bouncy to begin with before building up into an intense psych swirl.
The same applies to ‘I See You’, only for the the crescendo to exist on a far grander scale. It broodily smoulders away before unleashing itself on the listener, somehow engulfing itself time and time again as it expands.
‘In and Out of Sight’, an unashamed dance track, is blissful and summery, while ‘Jealous Sun’ brings together aspects of the band’s whole back catalogue, with a riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on Strange House making way for the synths that were so prevalent on Primary Colours and Skying. The chorus is probably the strongest on the whole album, with Faris’ singing: “Don’t let it all slide away, under jealous sun together.” It’s notable that Faris’ vocals sound stronger in a long while, and his enjoyment of being part of this album really does come across.
‘Change Your Mind’ sees Faris in poignant mood, reflecting, Morrisey-like: “Do you look at him the way she looks at me,” and it’s the beginning of a remarkably strong ending to the album. The last song, ‘Sleepwalk’, with its majestic and swirling chorus makes for a perfect ending to what is a perfect album.
After a few listens it becomes apparent that Luminous is their most complete bunch of songs, weaving perfectly into each other, as if the whole album is just one entity, rather than individual tracks. Primary Colours signalled the birth of this reborn band, and although it’s their most important album, it doesn’t quite stand up to Luminous, which marks yet another high point in the incredible career of this Southend band.
If their fifth album manages to continue this seemingly impossible upward trajectory then to be honest, I think we can put up with any amount of delay.