I think there is going to be some irony in the air. Editors smashed into the music scene and instantly became leaders in the post-punk revival in 2005 with the release of their debut “Back Room.” A highly anticipate sophomore effort followed in 2007, “An End Has a Start,” that solidified them in the UK, made Europe very conscious of them, and even started to make way in the USA. But they received some criticism because they essentially recreated the same sound, just more radio friendly. Then the announcement of the third album came along, claiming that this would be a new chapter for the Editors, centering on the use of more synthesizers this time around. Usually when a band says they are entering a new phase, it is nothing more than a euphemism for “our records sales are slumping so we need a cheap gimmick to get you to look at us again.” But that was not the case for the Editors, they were stronger than ever, so why the change? Early on, before any release, many of the same people who criticized the similarity in sound between the first two albums criticized the Editors for wanting to change their sound. Irony at it’s best.
“In This Light and On This Evening” (12 October 2009 in the UK, 13 October 2009 in the USA) is a mesmerizing, breath-taking album. Opening with the titular track, the song builds and builds over two minutes and three-quarters before breaking into a beat. The initial dark ostinato, repeating throughout most of the song, is eerily sultry, as Tom Smith sings, “I swear to God I heard the Earth inhale moments before it spat its rain down on me. I swear to God, in this light and on this evening, London’s become the most beautiful think I’ve seen.” A nod to his new residence, Editors hold to their promise from the very first few seconds of the song: a new sound, a new chapter, and it does not disappoint!
From beginning to end, the lyrics are emotional and heartfelt; personally, I am tired with all the comparisons of how Tom Smith sounds like Ian Curtis. This is a matter of genetics, Smith has the same kind of voice and this is not his doing. But to his credit, Smith moves away from melodramatic styling of his vocals and really sells the lyrics on this album. He never slumps into disparity, nor is there a faux urgency in his voice; instead he gives a heartfelt rendition of his lyrics, a conscious acceptance of what he is singing about. Added to the layered keyboards, the distorted guitars, and the spot-on rhythm section, maturity in craftsmanship and approach is more than obvious. Of course, I am sure that many people are going to say there isn’t much in terms of departure in sound, and I would say take a closer listen. Sometimes the most powerful changes are not endemic, but systemic. What has changed is how they approached the writing of this album – perhaps because they worked with Flood? Perhaps because they recorded the album in more than one studio and city? Or perhaps because they are not the kids they were, trying to make a dramatic musical statement, and more concerned with writing music that works in tandem with lyrics. For instance, in the lead single, “Papillon,” the music conspires to be more introspective, claustrophobic rather than a guitar orgy, which suits lines such as “If there really was a God here, He’d have raised a hand by now.” This kind of interplay, this tight knitting between theme and sound, is apparent throughout the entire album. What more, what is most apparent is that there is no attempt to be virtuoso. Each song is handed to the listener, as a small visceral experience that is so well arranged and produced, there is no need for flashy gimmicks or cliché rock antics.
All that said one track does really hearken back to the past. “Like Treasure” could easily be confused for a first wave post-punk song. There is an “aged” quality to the song, even in the vocals, that really reminds me of those formative years when bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and The Cure were solidifying a new scene in music. However, the other tracks sound fresh and vibrant on their own terms. “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool” is my favorite melody on the album – did they write their first sing-along here? And just as the album began it ends, with an eerie sultriness. The ostinato immediately hooks you (not so much an 80s sound, but rather an early to mid-90s sound), “Walk the Fleet Road” is an apropos ending to the album, but at the end of a long journey, there is hope, sort of: “No push and no shove, spit verbal mace, hate can turn to love not for this human race.” It is sort of like Pandora’s Box – for all the wretchedness that spewed out of it, hidden deep below is the hope for something better, though hidden.
In a year in which I feel that many veterans failed to reach the mark of what was capable of them, in a year where most veterans sat on their laurels and did not do anything new and fresh, the Editors put forth a spectacular third album. If all you want to hear are those guitar riffs on “An End Has a Start” and “Bones” over and over again, by all means – personally, I have put their cover of “Lullaby” on repeat for hours (at the cost of blaspheming in the eyes of many, better than the original). But if you want to see a band grow, progress, and do it with grace and artistic integrity, “In This Light and On This Evening” is an album that is going to seduce you as much as it has seduced me over the past twenty-four hours.
1. In This Light and On This Evening
2. Bricks and Mortar
4. You Don’ Know Love
5. The Big Exit
6. The Boxer
7. Like Treasure
8. Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
9. Walk the Fleet Road
Keep up with Editors at their homepage and MySpace. If in Europe, through December they will be touring. Check out their homepage Live page for dates and ticket information.
Here is their video for “Papillon” from their YouTube Channel: editorsoffical.