Many critics have tagged In This Light and on This Evening as the instance where British post-punk revival foursome Editors begin to distance themselves from the incessant comparisons to Joy Division, abandoning ubiquitous guitar arrangements for ventures into electronic soundscapes via frequent synth use. But rather than exploring completely new avenues with their expanded arsenal, Tom Smith and company employ the synthesizers to put a different accent on their erstwhile sound. Though the baritone frontman still apes Ian Curtis with faith and precision, his songwriting makes considerable progress in working to a general theme: In This Light is inspired by London, the hustle and bustle of Britain’s premier city, and perhaps more so its anxiety and paranoia given the current economic climate.
The album’s title track catches Smith exploring the depths of his sonorous vocal chords almost like a caricature, droning over the low-key overture before an eruption of electronic noise. Lead single “Papillion,” then, treads familiar ground to Editors’s sophomore release, powering through epic centerpieces with dense layers of sound (though, as mentioned above, walls of guitar give way to the synthesizers). However, the most memorable and infectious track on In This Light comes in penultimate ditty “Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool,” in which Smith bounces deeply across the industrialized groove of warped vocal samples and clattering percussion.
Despite embracing their electronic influences with much gusto on these more inspired outings, though, the record’s middle stretch feels both forced and forgettable. “The Big Exit,” “The Boxer,” and “Like Treasure” pass by leaving little or no impression, and deprive In This Light of truly extraordinary status. There is mileage in this newfound direction, but Editors haven’t managed to deliver comprehensively.