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.
So, thanks are due in no small measure to The Horrors. This well-spoken, well-read, well-listened and well-intentioned bunch of beautiful blokes in tight clothing have once again returned to save rock ‘n’ roll. Kinda. See, like Skying, Luminous isn’t exactly rock ‘n’ roll. It’s a splendid, glossy version of what one might refer to as ‘synth-pop’ (or just ‘pop’, if one were lucky enough to be around in the halcyon early days of Vince Clarke), with a bubbling undercurrent of sinister rock-ist leaning musicality that is as subtle as it is functional.
Of course, people will reference Neu! and other iconoclasts – but these aren’t the folks that The Horrors most sound like on Luminous. In fact, they sound like a turbo-charged and/or mega-sedated OMD or The Human League for large swathes of the record. This is not a problem, nor is it a derogatory statement. It is, actually, rather savvy.
The music of Luminous is exactly that – luminous. The SPF cream needs rapid application after the first few seconds of opener Chasing Shadows. It’s a gloriously blissful effort, resplendent as it is with a Tangerine Dream-y synthscape with gated synth and bongos. It’s like ‘krautrock for beginners’. And when the baggy Madchestah beat kicks in you can almost feel the ultraviolet rays on your face, if you’re not busy chewing it off.
The rattling guitar that opens First Day Of Spring clatters and clangs before total euphoria sets in – a loping, kinetic blend of psychedelia that the Horrors have turned into their trademark over their last three records. So Now You Know continues in the same vein, only slowing the tempo and upping the foot-tapping, head-swaying bliss-out vibe to an almost sedentary post-narcotic pace.
In And Out Of Sight is the best track on the record (possibly). Either that or the final track Sleepwalk, it’s hard to tell. The former has a twitching melodic stratum undulating over a righteous coital bass-groove – it’s an absolute monster that must form part of the Horrors’ upcoming tour(s). The latter opens with the sort of enormous drum sound John Bonham would have been proud of. Change Your Mind’s lazy hazy vibe is infectious – check out the David Gilmour-esque guitar riding a Martin Rev beat in the verses. It’s preposterous, but it works.
The track we’re all most familiar with by now is I See You, first released as a taster a few months back. It has hints of tasteful, refined bands you used to scoff at your dad for liking, but the track doesn’t seem tired or dated. Rather, it seems relentlessly modern. The sprinkles of euphoric space-age keyboards, combined with Faris Badwan’s pleasant vocal melodies, are positively glorious.
This being their second album in this style, it can take some getting used to if you’re longing for a shot of vitriol of Mr Rotter and chums. But, if you are lucky enough to have a parent or two that were around when synths were kicking off (or you were “There, man”), you’ll already be intimately familiar with the vibes conjured here. The Horrors have mastered it – this amalgam of synthpop and blissed-out rock is a thoroughly entertaining and endlessly re-playable proposition. Do you actually remember the last time you listened to Talk Talk or A Flock of Seagulls? No? You’ll remember the first time you heard Luminous, that’s a guarantee.
God knows how old The Horrors are, but it’s unlikely they rushed to Woolworths to buy a copy of Dazzle Ships the day it came out. The good news is it doesn’t matter. There isn’t any bad news. Luminous and Skying are effectively variations on the same theme – Luminous is lacking the snarl of say, an Endless Blue, but it plunges further into deep space than its predecessor. Luminous, all told, is a sure-fire summer soundtrack from a band who are far more cerebral than they’d have you believe.