Geography. Whether it's Lou Reed and David Bowie channelling the sound of Berlin as perceived through a drug induced stupor in the early 70s, the Smiths' bittersweet poetry about cemeteries and school bullying in the grim industrial Manchester of the 80s, the modern city has always provided a muse for the artist.
And so it is with Editors third album, 'In This Light....' . Lead singer, lyricist and chief miserablist Tom Smith has moved south from his native Birmingham, in with Radio One DJ Edith Bowman, experiencing parenthood and domestic bliss. On this record he channels the narcotic rush of the capital through lyrics of wonder “On this life and in this evening, London is the most beautiful thing I've seen” ; and fears of overwhelm (“damn this place makes a boy out of me”). This is surely a new range in his emotional vocabulary, but fans need not worry, his voice still has the haunting quality of Ian Curtis, and the lyrics overall still aim for a note of portentous melancholy that had defined the band up to now, as the singer curses god for not existing on current single 'Papillion', and the passing of youthful passion on 'You Don't Know Love'. Occasionally, the results sound forced and silly, as on the latter, which begins “You ran with the dead today, with the moles from the CIA”. But for the most part, it works.
Sonically, the band as whole strike of daringly in a new direction, experimenting with a new palette of sounds apparently taken from 80s movie soundtracks like Bladerunner and Terminator, and yes, Joy Division / early New Order. Melodies played out on atmospheric synths rather than guitars, and beats chiming on the tinny sound of drum machines may alienate those used to Editors 1.0, but the production by Mark 'Flood' Ellis ensures a 'Live' quality to the electronica, which is not ruined by being overly sequenced and quantised, retaining instead an organic feel.
Let's be clear. Editors have divided critics, some of whom have accused them of sounding like a modern, commercially acceptable version of Joy Division (and having beaten to it by Interpol by several years, for that matter), and this record will do nothing to refute those accusations for listeners unwilling to appreciate the innovation of this record, particularly its' referencing of 80s synth music by the likes of Vangelis. Such accusations miss the point ; if we are to see Oasis as a poor mans' Beatles, The Strokes as a poor mans' Velvet Underground, and the Libertines as a poor mans' Strokes, pretty soon we'd be left with no music at all.
Fans, despite their fear of change from the tested formula of Editors' earlier work, may listen to this record with kinder and more patient ears, and will find themselves pleasantly surprised I suspect, after the initial shock of new. 'In This Light' is a grower, which will reward on repeated listening.