Review Summary: Back-tracking on a back-track… Or just plain confused?
Despite the “derivative” call-outs, English post-punk revivalists Editors have admirably been unwilling to stagnate over their now decade-long career. While the electronic experiment that was 2009’s ‘In This Light and On This Evening’ may have been a leap too far, the quintet appeared to be back on track with the still polarizing 2013 effort ‘The Weight of Your Love’. Falling somewhere in between those two records sound-wise, the band’s self-produced fifth LP ‘In Dream’ doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s as if Editors have back-tracked on their previous back-track, forcing listeners to question if the act have their own identity… Or even know their own strengths! Are they simply confused?
Once again leaning towards the electronic spectrum (with a hefty dose of 80s worship), ‘In Dream’ is predominantly concerned with mood-building tension. Many of the tunes here are slow-burners that rely on gloomy, somber atmospherics that border on being classified as darkwave. The main issue is that the majority of these tracks (half of which cross the five minute barrier) either meander along formlessly without any satisfying release, or morph into clichéd and melodramatic refrains such as “Don’t stop believing” (on the Bronski Beat-like ‘Our Love’) and “Loneliness forever” (‘All the Kings’). This is all the more ironic since the album begins with one of Editors’ trademark baffling lyrics: “I boil easier than you, crush my bones into glue, I’m a go-getter”. Then there’s the God-like exclamation of “Salvation” on the pretentious strings-soaked track of the same name, which later includes the nonsensical “Good looking, you’re a unicorn dancing in the flames”.
Far from a write-off, ‘In Dream’ does have its strong points, a fact which only serves to further frustrate. It begins interestingly enough, with the methodical unravelling of ‘No Harm’, a tune in which front-man Tom Smith impressively showcases his matured versatility as a singer; segueing between his strikingly distinctive baritone and surprisingly effective falsetto with greater know-how. Piano-driven, guitar-inclusive highlight ‘Ocean of Night’ immediately follows, one of a handful of tracks which enlists Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell for backing vocals to good effect… It’s just a shame that her co-lead turn on ‘The Law’ isn’t made more of. Elsewhere, single ‘Life Is a Fear’ may be the poppiest offering here, while the sprawling – if repetitive - near eight minute closer ‘Marching Orders’ approaches “epic” status by actually building up to something.
With the majority of the band’s fans split into separate camps over their previous two releases, ‘In Dream’ will not only further segregate their followers, but also confound them. There’s a fine line between tension-creating unpredictability and bemusing indifference… A line which Editors have regrettably crossed at some stage of their past six years of existence. The fifty-one minute long ‘In Dream’ may not be a poor album per se, and it’s actually rather cohesive… Unfortunately, it’s an LP which simply lacks reward… Both for listeners and, ultimately, the band.
Recommended Tracks: Ocean of Night, Marching Orders & Life Is a Fear.