Gloom Sleeper return to the fray with a mighty sophomore album – a manic collision of driving pop melodicism, post-punk sang-froid and four-to-the-floor garage rock energy.
Funny word, ‘sophomore’. It’s used as a fancy way of saying ‘second’ – sophomore movie, sophomore record – although you’ll never catch anyone completing a foot race and commenting, ‘yeah, I came in sophomore place.’ That’s ‘cause it only makes sense when you recognise that it describes a position on a learning curve – and on this follow-up to Gloom Sleeper’s 2016 debut A Void, it’s plain to see that the Bielefeld band are learning fast.
Physically they’re in Germany, but their hearts are scattered all over the place: Macclesfield, where they’ve absorbed the raw gothic clatter of proto-Joy Divisionists Warsaw; Notting Hill, where the darkling shimmer of Killing Joke somehow found its way into the world… plus all manner of US punk rock hotspots (New York, Detroit, Cleveland, you name it) dribble into the music like blood into water.
They’re at their best when the strands unfurl across each other, like when the shredded-nerve guitars of City of Unrest soft-fade into a tense, crystalline synth finale. Meanwhile out-and-out rock’n’roll cuts like Perceptions and He Smiles prod and poke at your punk rock heart, daring you to reach into their sweaty embrace while simultaneously keeping you at a distance with a foreboding stare and an outstretched arm.
Cold always feels warm once you’ve acclimatised, of course, and these are songs you’ll wanna get inside – if they don’t get inside you first. Essentially, Luminous Galaxies is a stunning leap forward. The best bit? Oh, just the creeping suspicion that there’s even better to come… but for now, this is a mighty fine place to start.
– Will Fitzpatrick