If there’s a case to be made for being cynical about Editors, then I certainly don’t need to be the one to make it – they’ve seen enough of that over their career already, from the sneering ‘Boy Division’ jibes to dismissive comparisons to Interpol (and yes, there is enough room for both bands to exist). Indeed, some critics have been quick to snobbishly deride third album In This Light And On This Evening as the moment when the band stopped aping Unknown Pleasures and started copying Closer and/or New Order instead. However, if you’re expecting more cynicism here then turn away now – I love Editors, and shamelessly so. I couldn’t have been more pleased for them when the slow-burning success of The Back Room set them up to go huge with follow-up An End Has A Start. I loved the former so much that when my brother managed to ‘lose’ my copy of the special edition after he lent it to a friend, I felt compelled to search the internet for another copy, no matter that I ended up paying £19 for it. The latter threw me at first – or specifically, discovering that ‘Bones’ was basically a massive red herring threw me. But after taking another couple of listens, it all fell into place, and I adored it almost as much as the first. And let’s not forget that the band are even better live than on record – and their live sound is something that they’ve openly said they wanted to capture on their third album.
They arguably come closest with the record’s first single ‘Papillon’ – a song that I first heard played live at a festival in Switzerland, and the track that wiped away any doubts I may have had about Editors new, more electronic sound. Monolithic, Depeche Mode synths permeate the track, along with a drumbeat that pounds and skitters in equal measure – the song simply doesn’t let up, and should surely sit alongside the band’s early singles as a staple floor-filler. ‘Bricks And Mortar’ also makes a strong case for capturing the band’s live sound, with its incessant pulse and slow, layered build-up replicated almost perfectly. In fact, certain aspects of the song are improved on record – the almost comedic tyre-skidding samples that jarred when I heard the song played live sound more like aggressive bursts of feedback on record, which seems more fitting with the overall feel of the song.
Elsewhere, opener ‘In This Light And On This Evening’ sets the tone for the album with sinister, looping sci-fi electronics and Smith’s haunting baritone declaring “I swear to God/In this light and on this evening/London’s become the most beautiful thing I’ve seen” before the song bursts into distorted guitar and what sounds like a panicked Morse-code transmission – from start to finish, it’s completely captivating. They definitely haven’t lost their knack for a lyrical hook either – ‘Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool’ contrasts the creepy imagery of the title and verses with the biggest pop chorus on the album, while the dark, queasy instrumentation ‘The Big Exit’ still eventually gives way to not one, but two emotive hooks.
But for those who are put off by the bands new-found synth obsession, it’s important to realise that Editors are basically making the same music as they did before – they’re just using different instruments. ‘You Don’t Know Love’ and ‘Like Treasure’, for example, are tracks that would happily have sat on previous album An End Has A Start if you played some of the synth lines on guitars instead (or, arguably, even if you didn’t). The album even ends in a similar way to The Back Room, with the reflective, almost ethereal shimmer of ‘Walk The Fleet Road’. The point is, that Editors haven’t changed the most key aspect of their sound – the juxtaposition of dark and light, of gloom and hope. The fact that they’re using synthesisers this time round is almost irrelevant in some respects – and yet, it is undoubtedly a progression for the band, and demonstrates a willingness to experiment, to make something different rather than just sitting on their laurels.
It’s also worth mentioning the ‘bonus disc’ that comes with the special edition of the album – titled Cuttings II, in another nod to The Back Room. But these are no mere castoffs – much like the original Cuttings, these are all tracks that would have been worthy of inclusion on the album itself. Indeed, the only obstacle to their inclusion is likely the fact that the album seems complete as it is, even at only nine tracks long. ‘For The Money’ is a sinister highlight, taking the “One for the money, two for the show…” intro to Elvis’ ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and bleakly updating it to “One for the money, two for the money, three for the money…” – a cynical dig at the modern music industry, perhaps? ‘A Life As A Ghost’ is also impressive, with Smith sneering “Dance, fucker, dance, you were born to entertain,” over oppressive, almost industrial beats, while ‘This House Is Full Of Noise’ also makes a strong case for inclusion on the album proper, starting with sparse instrumentation and ominous drumbeats before suddenly exploding into a wall of guitar noise. Overall, the five tracks on the bonus disc compliment the album extremely well.
As a fan of the band, I can only hope that In This Light And On This Evening will at least cause Editors’ detractors to re-consider their prejudices against the band. At any rate, it doesn’t seem to have put their existing fanbase off – the album went straight in at number one in the UK charts this week. Perhaps that means I’m just preaching to the converted?