Let’s Dance to Joy Division (and celebrate the irony)

Sometimes I like flicking through my music library just seeing what comes up, not settling on any one artist or album in particular.  Sometimes I just can’t decide what I want to listen to and try a few things before coming to rest on something that fits my mood.  Other times I get a bit obsessed with one artist and just listen to them over and over, exploring their full back catalogue, seeking out B-sides, rarities and covers they have done.  I wrote last week about my love affair with REM.  This week it has been Editors.

I’ve been a fan of Editors since their first album, The Back Room, and have listened to it and the second album, An End Has A Start a lot over the years.  I did buy their third album, In This Light and On This Evening shortly after it came out, but I kind of forgot about it until recently.  I’ll blame it on the fact that it came out when my daughter was 3 months old, so I was probably busy.  I had bought the physical CD for some reason (so long ago I can’t remember) but never got round to putting it onto my laptop or mp3 player, so it lay forgotten until a conversation with a friend reminded me about it, and about Editors in general.

So I’ve been listening to them over the past few days, starting with the first 2 albums and now the latest one.  I’ve been searching for interviews with them, both written and video, to find out a bit more.

I’ve said before that I like musicians with personalities and music with substance.  The members of Editors all come across as interesting, funny, smart individuals.  Tom and Chris are the 2 that most often pop up in interviews, but it’s not uncommon to find the other 2, Russell and Ed, contributing too.  I like it when all the members of a band get involved in things, rather than just the front man.  As for the music having substance, it seems like they have been criticised for having too much of the stuff.

Every interview mentions that they are renowned for being moody / gloomy / depressing / dark etc etc.  They pick up on Tom’s lyrics as being all about death, mortality and loss.  Every interviewer seems to refer to other people comparing Editors to Joy Division or other supposedly dark and gloom-laden bands.   I was pleased to see that the guys themselves counter this by saying that although there are aspects of that in their lyrics and music, that they are also trying to create something positive, uplifting and life-affirming.  I was mainly pleased because that was the feeling I got listening to them.  Of course there is no denying that the lyrics, read alone, do paint a pretty grim picture, but I think it’s more the case that Tom is trying to reflect reality than painting a deliberately bleak picture for the sake of it.

Yeah, I know, I should have references and quotes here.  I read / viewed all these interviews over the past few days, but didn’t save them. Trust me. Or do what I did – type “Editors interview” into your favoured search engine and just start at the top.  Oh I will recommend the Face Culture series of interviews, available in YouTube, Face Culture always do good stuff.

Anyway, so yes, I was pleased because that was exactly the feeling I got – first impressions of the music was that it was interesting – great guitar (Chris Urbanowicz has a really distinctive sound and way of accompanying songs that I just love) and bass lines, tight drumming, and the vocals – I don’t know the correct word to describe Tom’s vocals – beautiful seems too feminine….his voice has the ability to make you sit up, take notice, and possible melt your insides a little.  Then once I got to hear the lyrics, they really appealed to me because a) they were actually saying something (substance) and b) they struck a chord with me (‘scuse the pun) and correlated with my world-view.

Yes, there are themes that some might consider depressing, but they are issues that are real, relevant and, well, substantial.  Sorry if I’m over-applying that word.  I mean music can be escapist and idealistic and contain themes of dreams and aspirations, I don’t have a problem with that, variety being the spice of life and all, but I think there is a place for the darker side of life (and death) too.  If that is something you think about, it helps to know that other people are thinking about it too. Song lyrics can be comforting because they put into words what you can’t yourself, or they make you see something from a new perspective.  Certainly when I have dabbled in writing songs I have been at my most productive lyric-wise when I have been dwelling on something troubling.  It is cathartic.  And let’s face it it is more interesting than the “I woke up, had a cup of tea” school of song-writing.

On this note, I’ve been watching the “Secrets of the Pop Song” series on the BBC.  It was fascinating for many reasons – my favourite nugget of info was that in Queen’s early days their concerts were serious solemn affairs with the audience listening politely and quietly, until one gig some people started singing along, and the rest, as they say, is “We Will Rock You” among others.  But anyway, what I found most fascinating about the series was that in each case, the artists turned up to Guy Chambers’ studio (OMG how I would love to spend a day there, heaven!) without any real idea of what form their song would take.  They mostly played around with rhythms, chords, hooks etc until they formed the basis of the song, then the singer came up with lyrics to suit.  Now I know that it is not an uncommon method of song-writing, to create the musical elements first and add lyrics on top, but what struck me was that the lyrics were (it seemed, maybe the editing didn’t do it justice) given the least attention.  There was little emphasis put on the meaning of the words, or the message they conveyed.  Partly it was because Guy Chambers doesn’t do lyrics, he made the odd suggestion for tweaking, but that seemed to be mainly to do with rhythm or emphasis.  Fair enough, it was a series about Pop songs, so maybe I’m expecting too much, but there were some serious artists there, Rufus Wainwright, the Noisettes, Mark Ronson and a newcomer called Tawiah, who I actually liked a lot and she was shown spending time agonising over her lyrics.

It just seemed weird to me that they could produce something and not already have an idea about what it was all about.  Maybe it’s just because that’s not the way I’d do it, maybe it’s because it was more about creating a song that would serve a purpose rather than be about expressing a particular sentiment. Or maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much time listening to bands like Editors where lyrics are so important.

In any case I found it informative, inspiring and thought-provoking, which is a good thing, but particularly so in my recent REM / Editors phase of obsession.

I’ve only listened to Editors latest album a couple of times, I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve heard it more.  My first thoughts were, “where the hell is Chris and his awesome guitars?”, it sounded a bit like Tom had recorded it alone in his bedroom, all prominent vocals with synth and drum-machine backing.  But I realise that this is them taking a new direction, you can’t re-hash the same old guitar riffs again and again and still maintain interest.  I learned my lesson from Mystery Jets, when I really didn’t take to their latest album because it was so different from the first two, but once I heard it for what it was in its own right, I began to fully appreciate it.  I’ll keep the same open mind about In This Light… and see what I think after it’s been on repeat a few more times.

And I’ve STILL never seen Editors live! They’ve been to Glasgow several times over the past few years, but various things have been conspiring to keep me away from their gigs.  If/when I finally do get to see them, I’ll be one of those annoying people that bug the hell out of me at gigs, and I’ll go mental for the old songs from the first 2 albums.  I’ve seen Editors performances on TV etc and they always look like they do really good shows, they play with a passion and intensity that you don’t often see.  As soon as they announce a new album and a tour I’ll be queueing up for tickets and anything else that comes up can forget it, I’m seeing Editors come hell or high water.  If I can see Franz Ferdinand while 6 months pregnant, nothing short of actually giving birth will stop me from seeing Editors.

BTW I don’t really know much about Joy Division, I’ve never really purposefully listened to them, I just know the songs that get played on radio etc. Or feature in movies like Series 7: The Conteders. That’s what I think about every time I hear Joy Division.  That and the Wombats song that the title of this blog refers to.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s