"If we'd tried to make another more traditional guitar record, I don't think we'd have got through it," said Tom Smith of the Editors' latest album's musical direction. "For our own sanity, we had to do something we hadn't done before." To be sure, on In This Light and On This Evening, there's a big shift from their earlier work, which after the rehash of An End Has a Start, is most welcome. However, it just seems that when the band analyzed their direction, rather than trying something of their own, they looked once again to Joy Division for inspiration. Since that band tweaked their gloomy sound with electronic dance elements, the Editors apparently reasoned, there's no reason why it wouldn't work for them.
While this strategy does work in some places (and perhaps was their best option; no one really wanted The Back Room Pt. III), A part of what made their debut so good was that while post-punk bands were an obvious influence, there was still plenty else going on musically; here, it's pure latter day Joy Division, updated for the modern era. It gives the record a powerful atmosphere, yes; but it gets to be kind of faceless, with half of the memorable moments being so for the wrong reasons.
The doom and gloom is overpowering right from the beginning on the opening title track, and after that comes the awkwardly Terminator theme reminiscent Bricks and Mortar, which is really only noteworthy because of this resemblance; namely because past Smith's tortured wail (which admittedly is much more convincing here than on other places on In This Light) that's all it does.
That's what they do! THAT'S ALL THEY DO! YOU CAN'T STOP THEM!
....sorry. Opportunities to quote Kyle Reese are few and far between.
Lead single Papillon has, to be fair, a great beat; heavily indebted to New Order, but great all the same. It's just that Smith's dramatics are firing on all cylinders here, with a snarl ("It kicks like a sleep twitch!") that tries too hard for a sweeping effect and it's repeated with nearly the same passion every time. Not to mention the way he rolls his r's in the chorus ("If there really was a god here, he'd have RRRRaised a hand by now"), for even more effect; it really gets to be too much.
While the Editors certainly don't get points for originality, and the dark theatrics severely weigh the album down, there are some wonderful moments as well. Both The Big Exit and Eat Meat = Blood Drool are able to harness the dark dramaticism without feeling pointlessly over the top. Upon first listen, each sounds like a jumbled mess of random hooks thrown together with a sinister vibe, but repeated listens reveal them to be incredibly intricate, well written songs, with each component connecting beautifully. Sadly these tracks are the only ones that reward repeated listening, though; the rest simply sound more and more like each other.
All in all, In This Light and On This Evening is a mostly frustrating listen. Their finesse with melodrama has slipped considerably, and the result is an overly postured record with just a few shining moments. Perhaps they are on the right track trying new things that are still in their comfort zone, but a more discerning eye toward which ideas to run with and which to use lightly would have been enormously helpful. It's not a failure, but it's not really a good album either, and for the most part it leaves the post-punk revival crowd hoping that the new Interpol will be better.