The Horrors are all about change. It wouldn’t be too wildly generalizing to notice that the Essex-based quintet has yet to release two albums that sound like they came from same band since their first LP, Strange House. Distinguishing themselves as genre tourists, they’ve trekked through the gothic, the shoegaze and the new wave. With their latest album, Luminous, the Horrors finally seem to have settled somewhere amid the realm of new wave psychedelica.
What this release lacks in distinction from the sounds of 2011’s Skying, it makes up for in consistency. But this eclectic scattering of influences throughout their previous record, from My Bloody Valentine to Blur to Gary Numan, added much to its relaxed likeability. On Luminous, the Horrors have finally begun trying to secure their very own sound, less referential and more self-reliant. But to this end, their album comes across as a laborious effort.
It starts with some foreshadowing on “Chasing Shadows.” Nonironic bongos back the build-up of chugging multilayered synths, finally dropping a decisive beat after three minutes. Once the song reaches full swing, this drop is actually fairly anticlimactic, led by throbbing drums, indiscernibly washed-out vocals and predictable melodies, with all else forming an opaque wall of sound.
While a pitfall of many other acts in their sonic vein, shooting for more whistleable melodies or riffs might have helped the Horrors. Their album’s most memorable songs, namely the slow-dancing “Change Your Mind” and the distorted “Jealous Sun,” show this plainly. Even the single “I See You” sounds like a great Horrors song until its outro dissolves into an almost four-minute jam-session of effects.
Luminous has terrific moments, but they’re overshadowed by the underwhelming, making the album better suited for playing in the background than for entertaining. Overall, it marks a misstep for a band marching so distinctly forward until now.
Contact Erik Weiner at [email protected].