What would our record collections look like if we were free to listen to music without all the external influences, liberated from the constant din of the record company marketing machine, the publicists, the media opinion shapers, all there to help create the kind of buzz that makes the passage to success a little easier? Would we still like the music we like?
It's an intriguing question, and one that sheds some light on why certain hugely gifted musicians never make the grade and others, skinny on talent and/or originality, prosper.
If you are a music fan, and have managed to escape the hoop-la surrounding the release of each successive Horrors album release since Primary Colours back in 2009, then you have done pretty well. That album marked the beginning of a startling makeover, one that saw the band transform from a garish, cartoonish Goth parody to darlings of the music press literally overnight. Some Faustian pact must surely have been involved as they went from a fun, ever so slightly trashy garage band, all hollowed cheeks and retro glam, to pioneering innovators, saviours of the British indie scene, all without breaking stride. Primary Colours was a decent album, attempting to boldly assimilate the woozy guitars and narcotic psychedelia of My Bloody Valentine with limited success. It was never quite the groundbreaking album that some suggested but it showed some promise; the follow up, Skying, suffered from a deficit of decent tunes, a case of style over substance, epic in scope but not in execution.
Which brings us to Luminous, the bands fourth album and one that is currently garnering lavish praise from the same sources that heralded Primary Colours as a landmark record.
Once again, there is plenty of sonic wizardry on display; opening track 'Chasing Shadows' starts with one of those lengthy atmospheric instrumental preambles that signifies something big is about to happen and when it does kick off for real, the effect is impressive. But strip away the studio trickery and the initial wow factor and all that's left is an album that is devoid of any real substance or personality.
Even after multiple listens, very few of these songs make any lasting impact – beyond the surface sheen, this is a collection lacking any truly outstanding songs. At its best, on tracks like 'Jealous Sun' and 'I See You' they evoke nothing more than second rate Echo and the Bunnymen. By the time we reach closing track 'Sleepwalk', it is hard to feel anything but mild indifference for an album that seems to settle a little too comfortably into the same groove mined on their last album Skying.
For a band that becomes accustomed to massive acclaim, the biggest danger is complacency, the belief that everything they do is touched by greatness. Luminous demonstrates an ever growing smugness, worrying signs that the Horrors are beginning to believe their own hype.