Release Date: May 6, 2014
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Shoegaze
The Horrors have never lacked purpose. Up to now, they’ve kicked, they’ve screamed, they’ve experimented and they’ve decided to break big. All of this with formidable intent. On ‘Luminous’, everything pieced together before this moment makes greater sense than ever. If there was purpose ….
It doesn’t get more exciting than this. Mainstream British ‘rock’ music is in a bit of a pickle lately – half-arsed and over-hyped reunions primarily for the cash (The Stone Roses and The Libertines, we’re looking at you), dismal records (Babyshambles), The Rolling Stones’ never-ending tours, NME favourites Peace morphing into Duran Duran, and to top it all off The 1975. The best pound-for-pound records of 2013 were Disclosure and Factory Floor‘s debuts, and that just about says it all really.
Although their first album came out a little over seven years ago, it seemed like eons passed between the release of the Horrors' weirdo garage rock debut, 2007's Strange House, and their psychedelic ode to shoegaze, 2011's Skying. In that time, the band progressed from immature idolaters praying at the feet of Screaming Lord Sutch and the Sonics, to critically adored tastemakers climbing the ranks of the British festival circuit. Now, with a trio of albums under their belt and respect from peers and musical pundits alike, the Horrors are ready to carve out a spot in the UK limelight that is distinctly their own.
Ninety seconds into 'Change Your Mind', eight of the ten pieces Luminous is comprised of, Faris Badwan asks "Would you always believe?" It's arguably the closest The Horrors have ever come to writing a fully formed, lovestruck ballad and pretty much sums up the band's forward-thinking philosophy, venturing into previously uncharted territories with every subsequent recording. As far back as last August, when Drowned In Sound spoke to guitarist Josh Hayward, it was clear album number four would represent another major stride in The Horrors' development. Indeed, the level of expectation that greets a new Horrors record these days wildly contrasts with that of debut long player Strange House, an album fast becoming their Pablo Honey or This Is Your Bloody Valentine to the Kid A and Loveless epitomes of its successors.
The Horrors first exploded onto the scene in 2006, a gang of cartoon goths playing a snarling brand of psycho-garage that sounded like nothing anyone had heard for a very long time. Nobody quite knew whether to take them seriously; nobody could have predicted that eight years on they'd have evolved into one of Britain's most beloved indie bands, along with fellow late-noughties alumni The Maccabees and Foals. .
Music journalists aren’t clairvoyants, but stay in this game long enough to get cynical, and eventually you begin to fancy your ability to read from the meagre tea leaves of a debut single or a Miles Kane support slot. We like to think we’re able to tell the bands built for the long run from those who’ll implode unspectacularly, the ones who’ll someday mortgage their souls to play an arena tour from the born also-rans whose fanbase will ultimately dwindle to the inhabitants of their hometown and the surrounding metropolitan area. Of course, everyone has their blind spots.
As good as the Horrors' third album Skying was, it sometimes felt like the band expanded on the risks they took on Primary Colours in ways that felt reliable instead of daring. On Luminous, they trade their previous album's daydream-y excursions for something with a little more grit and drive. "I See You," the lead single from the group's fourth album, suggested that the Horrors had found a way to inject Skying's Echo and the Bunnymen and Simple Minds homages with more urgency; the way the song builds toward its massive coda -- and keeps lifting from there -- makes it a standout as well as a worthy heir to the band's definitive epic, "Sea Within a Sea.
When the Horrors released their second album, 2009's Primary Colours, the stylistic leap from their debut suggested the group would go on to become Primal Scream-like masters of reinvention. Instead, their progress since then more closely follows the path of Radiohead post-OK Computer. Having alighted on a sound they feel is ripe for exploration – in their case a pulsating, Technicolor psychedelia – they've spent the following releases honing it.
The Horrors’ career has been fascinating. Clearly always music lovers at heart, with each album they’ve grown into their influences of the time, absorbing these and making something startlingly new from occasionally wildly unfashionable raw materials. Where softer 80s rock might’ve been a key driver for previous album Skying, this time round there’s a touch of disco, a smidgen of one-hit wonder 80s pop and a dark luminescence (see what they did there?) that matches their usual sway and thunder fearsomely well.
For Britain's the Horrors, the world is a less and less horrific place. As the title suggests, their fourth LP is the analog-obsessed five-piece's brightest effort yet. They call it a dance album, but it owes more to producer Andrew Weatherall's blend of psych and prog rock and the fizzy, feel-good vibes of Donna Summer's Four Seasons Of Love than today's aggressively rhythmic club music.
All praise to the artist who can’t sit still. The best writers, painters, and musicians, the ones that define an age, are those whose work falls at crossroads: in conversation with the past, fully in the moment, and looking toward the future. The Horrors exploded onto the scene with a sound that was popular but fixated on the past, occasionally flirting with homage.
The Horrors’ transformation from a tangle of hair and legs playing goth-garage shouters into a nuanced, Mercury Prize-nominated musical force is one of the more interesting success stories to come out of England’s current rock landscape. The quintet’s standing as one of the most respected young bands in the UK is arguably warranted, with the transitional Primary Colours and the elegantly trippy Skying showing both the band’s musical skill and fondness for sounds new and vintage. Luminous, the Horrors’ fourth and latest release, presents itself as something like the synth-inclined group’s version of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s It’s Blitz!.
When the Horrors pick lead singles, they don’t bury the lede. Their eight-minute krautrock half-marathon “Sea Within a Sea” boasted affiliations with Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, acclaimed video director Chris Cunningham, and former the Jesus & Mary Chain bassist Douglas Hart. It left no doubt that 2009's Primary Colours intended to erase the memory of the “psychotic sounds for freaks and weirdos” that typified their shlocky shock-goth debut Strange House; two years later, “Still Life” was an obvious tell of the John Hughes-in-IMAX, cloudgazing reveries to come on Skying.
Having amped up their spiral-eyed psychedelia with 80s synths and the dance tropes on 2011's Skying, the Horrors attempt to go one higher with Luminous. Essentially Skying II, Luminous shifts slightly from the oceanics that characterised Skying to themes around perception and astronomy. There are songs such as I See You (seven minutes, begins as oscillation, ends as woozy crescendo), In and Out of Sight (five minutes, begins as analogue systems music, becomes indie-dance-pop) and Falling Star (hazy riff-pop, through and through).
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The rapturous success and high-flying praise of Skying, a worthy record in the annals of neo-psychedelia and shoe-dance/pop, means that The Horrors' fourth record - Luminous - approaches with tremendous expectations, which largely sets up the Essex quintet for a nasty fall. When you peak with a record, a wise tact is to try and move as little as possible and copy it.
When The Horrors arrived in 2007 with their schlocky, Cramps-indebted debut, Strange House, expectations were pretty low. For them to change their fortunes so drastically was hugely unexpected, with the krautrock sodden Primary Colours of 2009 and the subsequent shift from komische to baggy-psych on Skying two years later coming as a shock - especially as the latter of the two albums planted them firmly into the top five of the album charts. Somehow, The Horrors became a big deal.
Maybe we got the wrong idea about the Horrors, and consequently the wrong expectations. When they made that huge stylistic leap from the gothic retro-garage clatter of Strange House (a brilliant album in its own way) to the moody, motorik psych pop of Primary Colours, we thought that they were going to change musical direction as dramatically with every album. That, and the fact that they had a strong visual image that also changed accordingly, led us to think that maybe we had an indie boyband equivalent of Prince or Bowie on our hands; an act that would reflect the zeitgeist, stay one step ahead of the times, and dictate our haircuts and the cut of our trousers with each new record and photo shoot.
opinion byBENJI TAYLOR < @BenjiTaylorMade > Talk about a UK band that formed in the noughties and invariably you have to mention The Libertines. Carl Barât and Pete Doherty’s musical juggernaut spearheaded the garage rock revival in the UK, inspiring everyone from Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner to The Horrors’ Faris Badwan to take a shot at the dream. But let’s call a spade a spade: The Libertines were not an amazing band.
In advance of Luminous, The Horrors were to be found discussing their passion for dance music, for the transportive qualities of Juan Atkins and Underground Resistance. Sort of de rigeur for indie bands, really, many of whom spout this stuff in front of an tape recorder, but generally show little interest or capability of following it up in the studio. Luminous is a rock record, of course, and doesn’t have pretensions to being anything else.
The Horrors Luminous (XL Recordings) How has a UK band once so exciting grown so unbelievably dull? Luminous' opener "Chasing Shadows" hits six minutes, three of them intro. The Horrors always sounded like a bandload of crate diggers, but the records they formerly plundered held more thrills than the Spiritualized catalog they've swallowed whole. Every song now arrives overlong, filled with trance beats, electro sheen, and yawning vocals.