Review Summary: A fantastic slow-reveal slice of clinical darkness.
My own experience of Editors has been, thus far, one of frustration. Back in the early days before their debut album 'The Back Room' was released I considered myself a 'fan' of sorts. All the early singles were great; 'Blood', 'Bullets', 'Munich'.. etc. They were catchy and hinted at the dark depths that Editors most likely had waiting in the wings. And then came 'The Back Room', an album that was all surface, no feeling. It had a strange mask of semi-darkness, but behind it was nothing more then a supermarket version of Joy Division with catchy singles.
But still... I harboured the hope that they might yet find their feet and waited for 'An End Has A Start' to confirm or disprove my theory. Unfortunately, that album was inconclusive. It was darker, sure, but it had a wall-of-sound production that stifled the melodies and made everything sound the same. There were some good songs on the record and it was certainly better than 'The Back Room', but it was missing some hard to define element.
So that brings us here to Editors third effort 'In This Light And On This Evening'. I must admit to being somewhat apathetic prior to purchasing this album. I had planned to give it a miss, but I happened to have some unspent cash and I was bored, so I thought "what the hell."
I'm so happy I did make that choice, because 'In This Light And On This Evening' is everything I wanted from an Editors album in the first place. Which came as quite a shock. The 'interpol-lite' type of sound has been tossed aside, and the band have come back with genuine darkness in it's stead.
Oh, yes. This album isn't about catchiness or guitar histronics. It's about atmosphere, pristine synths and head-in-the-hands misery. Somehow upon throwing out the more traditional instrumentation of Joy Division, Editors have stumbled closer to their sound... Or at least their intentions. Let's not forget, 'Closer' was full of synths too.
But let's not head any further down that road.
What's on offer here is a band properly exploring it's ugly side. Take the whirring saw like noises on 'The Big Exit'; coupled with Tom Smiths' sinister enunciation and the mechanical drums, they make for a jarring soundscape, which is exactly what the band were going for. The ugliness is carried on later in the form of 'Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool'. Strange melodies and even stranger lyrics are order of the day here. It's all very confrontational with Smith sluring "Chewing with an open mouth / Your blood drool attracts the flies" and "I don't want to miss out / Or get ***ed." It seems hand crafted to piss off all the casual listeners. Even the opening title track with it's deep rumbling bass and spooky triple-tracked vocals seems like an excercise in the obtuse.
But all this is a good thing. Like most records of this type, there is a lot to discover on 'In This Light and On This Evening' that unravels slowly over time. Take the aforementioned title track. It's brilliant. The tone and lyrics bring up strong imagery of dead trees, rattling trains and the urban greys of London. Which are all images that pretty much sum up the album as a whole. The last track 'Walk The Fleet Road' even introduces night time winter walks and looming hospitals into the iconography.
Given the chance, the atmosphere of the album really sinks it's claws in and doesn't let go. A good example is when I was walking through Tokyo's Shinjuku area (I'm an Englishman living in Japan, you see) whilst listening to it on my iPod. Bathed in neon lights and perpetual drizzle, the album at that point became near euphoric. I was getting goosebumps. It's since rarely been off my playlist.
I could go into details about individual tracks, but I don't feel too much need, as in this case the whole is much more important than the parts. But I will mention the albums two highlights. The first is lead single 'Papillon'. I hated this when I first heard it on the radio, but when heard in the context of the record it just comes ripping out of the speakers. It feels like being in an early morning night club, all sweaty beats, build-ups and breaks. Kicking like a sleep twitch indeed.
The other highlight is 'Like Treasure'. Quite at the opposite side of the spectrum, it's completely restrained and relaxing. But it always feels like there's some hidden melody fighting to escape from beneath the tracks' icey surface. It's when that melody finally erupts and jets skyward that the album finds it's spine chilling crecendo as Smith cries "Like Trreeeeaaasuuure..." over synths and guitars that spiral down like rain.
In the end, I think 'In This Light And On This Evening' stands as Editors most satisfying album by far. By sacraficing the shallower, catchier aspects of their sound for the good of the atmospheric whole they have created a wonderful slow-burn work that begs to enjoyed again and again, or whenever the darkened weather permits.