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The rapturous success and high-flying praise of Skying, a worthy record in the annals of neo-psychedelia and shoe-dance/pop, means that The Horrors' fourth record - Luminous - approaches with tremendous expectations, which largely sets up the Essex quintet for a nasty fall. When you peak with a record, a wise tact is to try and move as little as possible and copy it. Not (let's bring that back, please?).

Okay, so in fairness, synths do play a grander role on Luminous - there is an instrumental advancement in play. Atmospheres rise and fall, ebb and flow, via electronic methods. It's all very nice, and the band manage to convey swoony and woozy really goshdarn well, adding sweeping washes of tidal clodhopper-leering FX. 'Jealous Sun' wears a thin Richard Ashcroft-ian latex guise, and the guitar motif is arguably the best element of the entire record; it's the only track that lurches out of the centre of the street, jabbing a toe into greatness. 'Sleepwalk', with similar cosmic synths, accidentally embodies the record's mindless daze, sounding like a stretched out Pulp tune, warped beyond almost all recognition.

Sauntering in with a doo-wop panache, 'Change Your Mind' starts with bundles of promise, and hints at impressive innovation. Instead of running with that theme however, the band peel back the lusciousness to its skeleton, only adding a few fuzzy layers for the chorus - it's so close to being more than 'meh', but doesn't quite reach it. Famed for their electric live sets, with this record it's difficult to imagine The Horrors evoking much reaction outside of "hold my beer, I need to piss," at a festival... or even a headline show.

Perhaps it's a general fatigue on our part - psychedelic guitar music is a dime a dozen right now - but this fourth instalment from The Horrors is distinctly wishy-washy. There's no snap, crackle or pop from Faris Badwan et al., and far from yanking us under the waters of a tie-dye lagoon, lobbing hallucinogenic visions and transcendental soundscapes our way, he and t'others limply languish in the area between The Verve, baggy-lite and some anti-je ne sais quoi that's kinda reminiscent of Oasis' later years. Unlike Skying, which was at the helm (or at least closer to it) of the psych-revival, sounding fresh to death and frankly, awesome, Luminous sounds phoned in. It does follow on pretty naturally, but not by much. It's not a sequel as such, or a 'reimagining', but a straight-to-DVD version of their sound, like the shitty American Pie spin-offs that were part of the canon in name only.

A much tauter editing process, snipping the gristly fat and extended flanginess, would make this a better album. Veering away from Skying's shadow with more purpose, with a more gung-ho attitude, would enable genuine glimmers of brightness to shine through. As it is, with the five-piece seemingly attempting to emulate past glories, it lacks vigour, energy or passion. There's the feeling that even the band don't believe in themselves here, and when you're so visibly apathetic (whether it's the case or not, that's how they come across), it makes it tough for a fan to get on board. Aloofness doesn't work for everyone.

It's not overtly offensive noise, but when a record's been on repeat for three days and the only thing stuck in your head is Mariah Carey's 'Touch My Body', there has to be something wrong. There was a sense of duty in pressing play on Luminous rather than an organic excitement or desire. It's so unassuming that you'll often lapse out of listening, suddenly jolting when a track changes; it's not hypnotic or ambient, however. Every artist has a weak link in their canon, and even The Horrors are allowed a Badwan BADUM-TISH.

Of course, this won't stop NME various publications ejaculating over it and plonking it at the top of their EOY lists. Maybe it's time we also championed mediocrity?

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