After lurching into U2-esque stadium rock that was critically panned and, arguably, precipitated the departure of the band’s founder member, lead guitarist and synth player Chris Urbanowicz, Editors have settled on a new sound for their latest album, In Dream. And this one’s a keeper.
To paint In Dream as a return to form for the band would be misleading. Without Urbanowicz, they’ve lost some of the anthemic indie rock feel that permeated early hits like Bullets and Munich. But if the last couple of albums, in all their bombastic glorious failure, felt like desperate attempts to recapture that sound for commercial reasons, this one feels like the result of a spell of deep soul-searching designed to save the band, and forge forward in a new direction. And I think it’s going to work.
It’s not just the move away from the guitar-led rock sound that makes In Dream interesting, it’s the intensity which that shift brings. Yes, it’s often soaked in an early ’80s electro vibe that cynics might say smacks of playing catchup with a few edgier rivals, but it also feels raw and genuine. It’s exciting and dark and visceral in a way the band haven’t been in a long time.
Tracks like Life Is A Fear will perhaps have the most appeal to wider audiences, using those eighties electro refrains to counterpoint lead singer Tom Smith’s Ian Curtis-esque vocals for an effective, atmospheric electro-pop track, that forge new ground for the band and represent a strong basis for future albums.
Existing fans won’t be totally alienated by the change indicated by In Dream though. There are glimmers of their old selves in the likes of Ocean of Night, which delivers a recognisably old-Editors sound. Toned down, more introspective, but no less potent vocals stand supported by familiar percussion-driven indie overtones that pull you on board, even if they don’t demand you jump and sing with that cocky confidence displayed in Munich.
As we discussed with Ed Lay in our October/November issue, the recording process gives some insight into how the band went about engineering this revival. Self-producing in a remote studio in Crear, up in the West Highlands, they gave themselves the freedom to experiment, to play and to change direction when they felt any resistance. Removing commercial pressure has removed that manufactured feel that hamstrung The Weight of Your Love.
While it occasionally feels uneven, and there’s not a full narrative journey in the album, every track has merit and several stand out as Editors’ best material to date. I’ve had In Dream on a loop several times over the past month, and it’s gotten me excited about a band that (forgive me guys) I had pretty much written off. Big kudos to Editors, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
In Dream is out now.