Fans who picked up the stateside release of the new Editors album a few weeks ago were in for a bit of a shock. In This Light and on This Evening, the third album from the funereal British art-rock outfit, boldly discards the traditional aqueous guitar sound for a clanking synthesizer soundscape that feels like Kraftwerk on crack. And its most futuristic stomper, "Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool," exemplifies the U.K. quartet's trailblazing new aesthetic.
"There's a Banksy painting where he depicts the Houses of Parliament as monkeys dressed in suits," says frontman Tom Smith, whose mausoleum-dank moans always set a sinister stage. "So the image I had in my head for this twisted little pop song was primal politicians jumping down on raw meat and laughing maniacally. Because music itself is a primal kind of instinct, isn't it? You know straightaway if you like something or you don't."
Smith sensed something was amiss when he penned the first song originally intended for the (not so) Light sessions. "No Sound but the Wind," whose demo version ended up on the recent Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack, was a good solid dirge, recalls the singer/guitarist/keyboardist.
"But it didn't feel dangerous enough, and we felt the creepings of a formula nibbling their way into what we were doing. So we knew that we had to shift our focus to remain sane, to remain excited. And I don't think we would've gotten there making just a guitar record — we'd still be making it now, to be honest."
Smith began sending skeletal tunes to group guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, who'd relocated to New York. He was shocked upon the material's return.
"Chris had played all his parts on a Juno [keyboard] instead of a guitar," says Smith. "And suddenly, things started to click, and I started to understand what was possible. And our melodies played on those types of electronic instruments have this really cinematic kind of sadness, or bleakness, to them."
A huge film buff, Smith based the recent epic single "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" on the surreal movie Intacto, and new single "Papillon" on the Steve McQueen prison-escape flick of the same name.
And then there's the title track: "It immediately reminded us — and me, especially — of Blade Runner. It had that dark kind of sci-fi feel to it. It felt like we were putting our music to some made-up film that all four of us knew."
When Editors were approached about New Moon, Smith and his manager added up some imaginary numbers, he says, "of how many kids were turned on to the Cure, the Smiths or the Psychedelic Furs by John Hughes films. And even though [Twilight movies] may not be something that I'd enjoy, you look at YouTube, or how many people are Googling 'No Sound but the Wind,' and you can see a dramatic increase in interest in our band."
A full-band version of "No Sound" will appear on a future Editors album or single, Smith promises. Probably in a much more twisted, post-Light incarnation.
"In the studio at certain moments, it felt like we were making fools of ourselves," he recalls. "But this new direction instinctively felt like it was the right thing to do."