PARIS (AFP) â€“ With a dark and powerful album “In This Light and On This Evening” out this week, Birmingham-based indie rock group Editors have opened a new chapter, swapping guitars for synthesisers in a third album that recalls the early work of New Order.
In their two previous albums, “The Back Room” and “An End Has a Start,” the Birmingham four provided the British scene with incisive but dark rock in the influential shadow of Manchester icons Joy Division.
Until now, Editors had not succeeded in capturing on record the intensity of their live shows, where hits “Munich” and “Smokers outside the hospital doors”, reach their full heights.
“We tried to make it as aggressive as possible, like a bullet going off. On ‘An End Has a Start’, we filled in space with lots of guitars, on this one we left space,” guitarist Chris Urbanowicz told AFP.
The new release marks the first time the band has integrated synthesisers into their rock sound. “It was something that happened very simply. I always wanted an old Roland (synthesiser) so I went and bought one and started to work on a keyboard instead of a guitar,” Urbanowicz said.
“The rest of the band liked it, because it was something different. There was a new song we were playing out live on the second record with guitar on it. It sounded OK, but it didn’t blow anyone away, I think that’s when we realised we had to change things up,” he said.
The band is not the first to bridge the rock/electro gap, as the ongoing 80s revival movement bears witness. However, unlike many of the releases of the past few months “In This Light and on This Evening” never feels like a pale imitation.
The result references more the pioneering electronic tones found in the Cold Wave of the first two albums by New Order, who formed in the 1980s from the remnants of Joy Division after singer Ian Curtis killed himself.
The single “Papillon”, with its soaring synthesisers and chorus, inevitably reminds the listener of “Blue Monday”, the Mancunians’ highly influential cult hit.
“To be honest I’m a big New Order fan but I was never really a big Joy Division fan,” said Urbanowicz, who says comparisons to the latter are partly due to singer Tom Smith’s baritone vocals.
The new-found power of Editors emphasises the talent of vocalist Smith, whose cavernous voice has never as much resembled that of Curtis.
Allied to the electronic loops, his voice is often spell-binding, as on “In This Light and On This Evening,” the album opener, which is based entirely on the repetition of just two sentences.
With its synth-metal hits, often marked with a certain coldness, the band’s third album could easily provide the soundtrack for a Blade Runner-like science fiction film.
The album was particularly inspired by the universe of the city: London, where Tom Smith lives, and New York, where Urbanowicz and bassist Russ Leetch currently reside.
“It’s definitely the imagery of the city, especially at dark, when you drive and see the world pass you by. Putting music to those thoughts was something that interested all of us,” the musician said.