Sunday, November 1, 2009


frontman Tom Smith will always live in the colossal shadow Ian Curtis cast after his tragic suicide. Whether he likes it or not, people will always make comparisons between him and the late Joy Division lead singer for a many reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, his vocal qualities instantly remind you of the downplayed, dirge-like singing style of Curtis, the overall sound of the group itself has heavy Post-Punk tendencies; and being a band from England can't help matters much either. Unfortunately for Smith though, he simply is not as good as Curtis.

Also I'd like to say right now; that is an awful album cover.

All that said, In This Light And On This Evening is certainly my favourite Editors album thus far, their two previous albums left me questioning "Who cares?" when I heard of the impending release of the album. Only because I had heard such great things about this new record that I decided to give it a listen. It's an altogether more electronic effort than their previous work, with a heavy synth presence throughout the LP, and this definitely pulls the band out of their rut of painfully dull Indie Rock. Whether it pulls them far enough is debatable, but it's important to see some serious progress by a band's third album and Editors clearly appreciate the fact as well.

The album opens with its title track, which is arguably the closest to Joy Division they have ever sounded. Ironically it's both one of the best tracks on the album and easily the most damning. By opening with a song that sounds exactly like one of the most respected bands of the 20th century, Editors certainly set me up to compare everything that follows to both this first admittedly impressive track and everything Joy Division have done as well. Bad move, Tom Smith. The song explodes half way into a heavily distorted riff of Muse-esque grandeur, creating, in conjunction with the moody vocals and slow burning synth; a very dark and foreboding opener.

This leads into Bricks And Mortar, a song Editors truly make their own. The synths once again are a standout in this one, sounding like the best parts of the 80's New Wave movement, in a move reminiscent of The Horrors recent sophomore album. Tom Smith is definitely more capable than Ian Curtis at crafting uplifting stadium ballads, and Bricks And Mortar is definitely one of the best examples of the iconic Editors sound that featured on their previous albums, but this time done right.

Which brings me to Papillon, which perplexes as much as it disappoints. When I say Smith isn't as talented as Curtis, this song comes to mind as the perfect example. His lyrical writing abilities just pale in comparison to Curtis'. While "It kicks like a sleep twitch" is an admirable concept to evoke, there just has to be a better way to put it; to sing it; to repeat it over and over. The weakest line on the album and it's given center stage in Papillon, sung ad nausem, jarringly placed and awkwardly phrased. Papillon should not have been the leading single from In This Light And On This Evening. Hearing the single beforehand lowered my expectations (which is perhaps a good thing) and dulled my mild excitement for the album, and within the context of the release it still hasn't improved in my mind.

The Big Exit tries to salvage the mood evoked from the strength of the opening tracks, and for the most part, succeeds. It's a good song to have right in the center of the album, it keeps it alive when it is beginning to falter and it's impression remains even through the disappointing second half of the record. The high point of this down tempo brooding centerpiece is definitely the vocal risks and flourishes Smith attempts. It's a welcome change from his ordinarily dead-pan delivery, and for once we can see Editors as a band of their own, rather than a weak ghost of a bygone era.

The rest of the album begins to blend together into one long song, neither interesting nor inspiring. It's a shame because there are moments here where Editors began to shine, where they finally hit the nail on the head and made me feel something, anything. But it's back to old house tricks for the second half, there's some interesting instrumental work in Like Treasure, but, and do I apologise to Smith for singling him out constantly, as soon as his vocals come in, I just switch off. The lyrics aren't interesting, his singing style isn't good enough to get away with it, and to be honest there's just something about him that really irks me.

While Curtis' vocals took a few attempts to appreciate, there was always an amazingly evocative and literate undercurrent to every Joy Division song. You could just hear in every line that Curtis was a man who never switched off, always thinking, dreaming and evolving, even if it was channeled through a horrible depression, his lyrics gave Joy Division its whole identity. In fact, that's what Editors feel like; a band without an identity, it's like they can't decide who they want to be, or they have, but they just aren't talented enough to get there.

For this reason I don't think I'll ever be blown away by an Editors album unless they change up their game completely. Too many inescapable comparisons are drawn and Editors come out second-best in many of them. There are moments on In This Light And On This Evening that really impressed me, but they are just outweighed and overwhelmed by the incredible nothingness of that which surrounds it. Sometimes obviously stronger tracks can be showcased by the comparison to the weaker ones surrounding them, but on this album, It just feels like they're being dragged down by rest who can't keep afloat.


Bricks And Mortar - Editors

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