If you have been reading my ramblings here on Popdose, you know that I like a lot of music, and a lot of different musical styles. There are some genres that I am not particularly fond of though. For example, if you said to me “synths and drum machines,” I’d be likely to say, “pass.” The problem is that such a response runs counter to my number one rule when it comes to music, i.e., it’s all about the song. I firmly believe that if the song is great, it doesn’t matter what the genre is, the quality will shine through.
I was a big fan of the Editors 2006 album The Back Room. It was all gloomy art-school rock, but the songs were good, and the sound was guitar driven. The next year, they released An End Has a Start. The album marked the band’s move away from the organic rock sound of drums and guitars, and toward a more electronic future. I hated it. In retrospect, it was the songs that let them down more than anything else. Now the Editors are back with the nearly completely electronic sound of In This Light and On This Evening (FADER Label), and their transition to a synth-rock band is complete. Against all odds, I like the new album. Again, it’s the songs.
Yes, hand-played drums, and bass guitar do appear occasionally. There is even an electric guitar here and there, albeit heavily processed, but by and large, the new album is purely synthesized, drum-machined, and looped. The Editors most identifiable sound however has always been stentorian baritone of Tom Smith, and that is one element that has remained constant. Smith’s is not a voice that will be to be to everyone’s taste, but I like it. The material is predictably gloomy, but the sounds are well recorded by Mark “Flood” Ellis. Flood has worked with U2, Depeche Mode, and Sigur Ros, so he knows his way around synthesizers.
In This Light and On This Evening opens with with the appealingly spacey title track (“I swear to God I heard the earth inhale”), followed by the relationship-as-war drama “Bricks and Mortar.” The beats are danceable, but the mood is dour. There is not a lot of room for hope in the lyrics, but that seems to be the price of the ticket for entry to the art-rock world. In any event, the album presents a powerful set of songs, and it is the songs that carry the day.
The Editors are a band that seem to have successfully negotiated a complete change of direction, if their continued popularity in the U.K. is any indication. Having proven that they can change course, it will be interesting to see what comes next for them.