The Horrors faced the very real possibility of being chewed up and spat out by an overzealous British music press when the post-punk outfit issued its debut, Strange House, in 2007. Instead, like the similarly-hyped Arctic Monkeys, the Horrors survived the initial scrutiny to forge an increasingly impressive discography, evolving from shambling, unsophisticated garage-rockers into one of the most intelligent purveyors of anthemic, stadium-sized dream pop around.
On the new Luminous, the Horrors have refined the mix of shoegaze, goth, psych and dance music that distinguished 2011′s Skying, displaying even greater confidence and accessibility without sacrificing an ounce of cool. (When Chris Martin looks in the mirror, I bet he imagines Horrors frontman Faris Badwan staring back.) Often, Luminous plays like a straight-up sequel to Skying, particularly on the stunning opener “Chasing Shadows” and “So Now You Know,” where burping synths thrillingly give way to a strings-laden chorus that blows through like a jetliner.
Two important digressions set Luminous apart: First, it appears that the Horrors loved Tame Impala’s Lonerism, as that record’s sparkly haze is discernible in songs like the grinding “Jealous Sun.” It also turns up in Badwan’s vocals; setting aside the smoldering baritone he employed on Skying, Badwan sings in his upper register throughout Luminous, evoking a kind of chemical-assisted bliss that suits the darkly ecstatic music. Disco is also a more pronounced influence on Luminous, though as Giorgio Moroder-quoting “I See You” demonstrates, the Horrors utilize dance thumpers not as a pisstake on arena rock (cough, Reflektor, cough) but rather as way to push themselves even higher. Four albums into a thriving career, the Horrors show no signs of coming down.