Seven years ago, The Horrors released their debut album ‘Strange House’: an odd blend of organ-powered goth rock, aptly subtitled ‘Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdos’. Deviating from this, their two subsequent albums were a modern take on shoegaze, which maintained their haunting synths and dreary vocals, while at the same time funnelling their energy into a much more palatable indie-rock package. This month brought the five-piece’s fourth release- ‘Luminous’.
Opening track Chasing Shadows begins with a lengthy intro: a haze of guitars and synth that gets led into the verse by looping bongos. As an instrumental piece, you could stretch to calling it upbeat. But coated with lead singer Faris Badwan’s drab vocals, it takes on a sombre tone. In typical Horrors style, this tug between radiant electronica and lyrical sadness drives the album.
While the majority of this album’s songs aren’t particularly memorable, there is an undeniable impression left by Badwan’s vocals. There’s something fragile to his voice, a knowing imperfection. Each line sounds like it was captured just before the idea was lost. You could call him a weak vocalist, but you could not question his uniqueness. This highlight of The Horror’s sound is sadly lost in live performances, but yet is forged onto vinyl and CD, and best enjoyed at home.
Third track So Now You Know is weak as a lead single. The syncopated guitar riff is the only catchy element of an otherwise sterile song. Had it been written in 2009, it would have just about made the final cut of Mercury Prize nominated ‘Primary Colours’, certainly not getting its own release. The one truly noteworthy track for us is Change Your Mind – a raw ballad that builds to a celestial chorus of Badwan’s begging words. Listen to this on repeat too many times and you may find yourself with an odd desire to trace raindrops down windowpanes.
Accepting that it doesn’t rival previous releases, this is still a consistent album. Though not offering anything in terms of advancement to The Horrors’ sound, it is another welcome serving of their own brand of charming melancholy.
Indie fans who forage an album for stand-out songs will probably be disappointed by this release. But those who enjoy an album as a 40 minute realisation of a single, well-developed musical idea will be impressed, if only mildly so.