All right, it's the fourth of July and I'm watching my children dip their popsicles into their little outdoor water table thing (which I filled with the hose) and then lick them. Which is gross. But it's still better than me entertaining them myself, so I'm going to use the opportunity to talk about this new Editors' album.
First of all, full disclosure: not only had I never heard the Editors before today, but I'd never even heard OF them, which is always a sad realization, especially when the band in question has four albums out (of course, it's even sadder when they have, like, fourteen). However, I can still provide details that might help even the seasoned listener get a foothold into this record. For instance, original guitarist Chris Urbanowicz left the band in April of this year (according to this interview on Digital Spy), about which lead singer Tom Smith comments, "the way Chris played guitar on the first two records, he almost had a signature sound. What he played was such an enormous part of what Editors were and what people liked about the band. And that's gone. We have a new guitarist now who plays guitar differently. So there are guitars again, but they don't sound much like they do on the first two records. We wanted to make a more rock-oriented record." There's also the fact that Smith's voice is more "distinct and vivid than ever", at least according to the Digital Spy interviewer, which Smith acknowledges with the remark "I guess there's a slight more comfort in being 'the singer'. I wasn't afraid to go for a song entirely in falsetto, that's the most striking difference on the record." And that pretty much covers the two big changes that others have noticed about this album, although I also have to mention that Smith told Live 4 Ever that this is release is "a big dumb rock record." Which I pretty much ENTIRELY disagree with, but I'll get to that in a minute.
So what does this album sound like to me, if not a "big dumb rock" number? Well, how about a "big derivative almost-rock" piece, since almost every minute of this record's 48 reminded me of another artist? And that's even after discounting the group's most-obvious sound-alikes (Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, and Interpol, according to Wikipedia), since I'm not particularly familiar with any of those folks. I did, however, think that first track "The Weight" bore hints of The Doors in both Smith's vocals and the piano-introduced, bass-heavy moments ("For a moment I felt the strength of your love/It was lightning, it was lightning/Strikin' on me"), and Radiohead in the humming instrumental bits. Then "Nothing" was the first track in which I realized how INCREDIBLY MUCH Smith sounds like a British Bruce Springsteen, what with his emotional enunciation over a quiet background and all (to be fair, the background of this song is more string-driven cinema soundtrack than blue-collar America, but the similarities are still striking) ("Every conversation within you/Starts a celebration in me"). And finally, to give credit where credit's due, let's talk about last track "Bird Of Prey", which was not only NOT about a Klingon warship, but also has one of the most unique vibes on the record, with a compelling drum, a quiet piano, and arching background vocals ("I wrap myself in you/A little something that I can cling to/Oh there you are my love/There you are my love").
Okay, I've had a couple glasses of wine at this point, and probably shouldn't touch the computer, but I'm gonna wrap this thing up either way. As I already mentioned, the overall vibe on this record is EXTREMELY reminiscent of a bunch of different folks, including U2 and R.E.M., even if I didn't bother to mention it in the song recaps (Springsteen is still the one that gets me most). Furthermore, while the first three tracks on this record have a pretty retro rock 'n' roll vibe, the rest is naval-gaze-y material that sounds like it belongs more on a soundtrack than on a legit release. Nevertheless, the songwriting ability is clearly evident, even if I don't necessarily like the direction it took, and the record isn't at all offensive. All of which basically adds up to the "average" distinction that we know and don't love, despite how often we hear it. Or in other words, better than a popsicle drenched in hose water, but not quite as good as a popsicle after a reverse-osmosis water bath. That makes sense, right?