Release Date: Jan 19, 2010
Record label: Kitchenware
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
"Boy Division" have grown up. Walls of guitars have been replaced by a stark, electronic sound and songs about war, God, the CIA and death. Although at times they sound as if they're straining for profundity, no one could accuse Editors of lacking determination. Papillon – the most familiar-sounding moment here – nods to Joy Division and Tubeway Army.
Despite being the butt of many indie elitist's vitriol, Editors can rest assured in the knowledge that their commercial success over the past five years provides ample justification to stick two fingers up at their detractors. Sure, their reference points have always been recognisable, even to barely knowledgeable passers-by, but by the same token they've also created a legacy of their own, inspiring the likes of White Lies and Bombay Bicycle Club (to name but two) to choose their own gloomy path to recognition. It would have been quite a simple move for Editors to play it safe here, and continue with their atmospheric brand of guitar-driven melancholia.
After two albums, England's premier post-punk revivalists Editors were at a crossroads. Their debut was a commanding snapshot of a young band whose emotional urgency outweighed its slavish devotion to the sounds of late-'70s/early-'80s Manchester -- there was no getting around singer Tom Smith's similarity to Ian Curtis -- but the power and passion of the songs trumped any "British Interpol" accusations. The follow-up found the band falling victim to the dread sophomore jinx, turning out a lackluster rehash of the same ideas as the debut.
Editors must have it pretty bad within themselves. Instead of being celebrated for their previous two albums, despite being best sellers, they were always one step behind the pack in terms of artistry. The Back Room, certainly a homage to the urgency of post-punk revival, felt more like a rehash; a band trying to reach for the baton when the relay was finished, but they persevered.
Can it really be this bad living with Edith Bowman? A dispute over nappy-changing: [i]“You’ll get old and die here… you’ll choke, choke on the air you try to breathe”[/i]. Edith shaves her legs and doesn’t rinse the bath: [i]“If there really was a God here/He’d have raised a hand by now”[/i]. Edith comes home spannered after a night on the lash with George Lamb: [i]“You ran with the dead today/With the moles from the CIA/They say more than you ever say”[/i].Searching for authenticity in gloom is an irresponsible occupation: after all, the expectation that artists should live up to their angst was surely a factor in both Richey Manic’s ‘4 Real’ carve-up and Kurt Cobain’s demise.
Know this: you will never read an article, review, or interview involving the Birmingham, England band Editors that doesn’t include the words “Joy Division”. You might not even squeak by without reading a thing or two about Interpol (the other band who can’t be mentioned without invoking the J-word). Anyone who listens to rock today knows that Joy Division’s influence is so powerful and vast that it has actually become tiresome and annoying.
Many critics have tagged In This Light and on This Evening as the instance where British post-punk revival foursome Editors begin to distance themselves from the incessant comparisons to Joy Division, abandoning ubiquitous guitar arrangements for ventures into electronic soundscapes via frequent synth use. But rather than exploring completely new avenues with their expanded arsenal, Tom Smith and company employ the synthesizers to put a different accent on their erstwhile sound. Though the baritone frontman still apes Ian Curtis with faith and precision, his songwriting makes considerable progress in working to a general theme: In This Light is inspired by London, the hustle and bustle of Britain’s premier city, and perhaps more so its anxiety and paranoia given the current economic climate.
Joy Division weren't exactly a laugh riot back in their day, and if Editors do anything to distinguish themselves from the numerous JD acolytes that emerged in the middle of this decade, it's that they actively push an image of being the least fun band of the bunch. Nevertheless, their 2005 debut The Back Room had singles like "Blood" and "Munich" that were tightly-coiled enough to honor their post-punk influences while being hooky enough to serve as a good entry-level primer. But like so many of their peers (I'm looking at you, British Sea Power), by album two they didn't let loose so much as get bloated, showing the smug healing powers of victory lap-era U2 without the years of artistic restlessness that earned it.
Oh, the agony of being Tom Smith. On Editors’ third album, In This Light and on This Evening, God deserts him. The sun forsakes him. Not even superproducer Flood (U2, Depeche Mode) can save the postpunk singer from misery. Or from overacting: With his tortured baritone, he sounds like Charlton ….