When The Horrors first appeared in 2006, they invited derision for their comical Goth-punk image. Here was a band that hid behind a grimy veneer so dark, they made The Cure look like One Direction. The dead-eyed stares and lack of irony seemed ludicrously contrived. The NME, predictably, fell in love with them but for jaded hacks and observers, the jury was out. Like countless other indie bands, most predicted they would disappear off the radar faster than a Malaysian Airlines 777. Yet, through a string of albums where they continually evolved, innovated and proved everyone wrong, The Horrors are still flying high.
On album number four, the Southend-On-Sea via London five-piece have bulked up their sound, pushing an electronic element to the fore and in turn creating a collection of expansive songs that seem to be designed for maximum impact in a live setting. Opener ‘Chasing Shadows’, for example, has an extended three-minute intro of Moroder-esque electronic noodling and percussion, a suitable audio backdrop for when the band take to the stage in a haze of dry ice. When the song is fleshed out with crashing guitars, drums and a swaggering groove, it’s evident early-90s indie is also a new influence, namely Primal Scream, Boo Radleys, Ride, even Happy Mondays. Maybe The Horrors staying power is down to their willingness to wear these influences openly on their sleeve and then subsume them within their own creative blueprint. The erratic guitar figure on ‘Jealous Sun’ is so similar to the one used on My Bloody Valentine’s ‘I Only Said’, it’s as if they cracked the formula for the other-wordly sounds Kevin Shields concocted on Loveless. Yet, ultimately, they make it their own. At times, they retreat further back half a decade or so: ‘First Day of Spring’ and one of the album stand-outs ‘I See You’ are homages to mid-eighties Echo and the Bunnymen but with a refined, modern twist. Another stand-out ‘So Now You Know’ takes a circuitous route to the chorus but it’s worth it when it comes.
Throughout the album, there are sideways detours, krautrock wig-outs, instrumental interludes. There is so much adventurousness on Luminous that, in less capable hands, it could have ended up sounding like a misconceived mess. The Horrors though have a decent way with a tune – Luminous is full of strong choruses – which has saved them from being tossed onto the indie-landfill tip. Yet, one can’t help but feel that they may be constricting their ambitions through their own introversion. Underneath the aloof, East-London hipster shtick you’ll find a band, you suspect, secretly wishing to play to the masses in stadiums. Stranger things have happened.