Posted by: Nick Walters | August 17, 2013

Editors: The Weight Of Your Love

Editors frontman Tom Smith would win a staring competition with a cat

The departure of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, however much Editors have made the best of it in interviews, has left a huge hole in the band’s sound. As a consequence, there is a lot of space in The Weight Of Your Love, filled either with Tom Smith’s fantastic vocals, or worryingly MOR string sections. On first listen, this is alienating, even off-putting, but further listens reveal an alluring, sometimes stunning album. It’s a big departure from Editors’ trademark sound, as was their last album, but this time they have swung the other way, from electro alienation to big AOR balladry, from bedsit misery to giddy lovelorn angst. It sounds awful – but it works, for me anyway,

The first three tracks, however, give little hint of this change. Opener The Weight is as musically, operatically grim as any Editors track. Tom’s lyrics are sometimes clumsy – there’s an overdone Frankenstein metaphor – but do we see a hint of self-deprecation: “I promised myself /I wouldn’t talk about death /I know I’m getting boring.” Next, Sugar, the best track here, with a sinister bubbling bassline and Massive Attack style strings. The lyrics swing between the painful (“there’s sugar on your soul”)  and the somewhat less painful (you swallow me whole / with just a mumbled Hello”) .

Single A Ton of Love doesn’t really exist in its own right, being mix of Echo and the Bunnymen’s The Cutter, with a bit of U2 and REM thrown in. It’s pleasant enough though if lacking in identity.

Then comes the section of the album that will divide listeners. You will either love the next three tracks, or hate them. I was put right off when I first heard them, but have come to love them, especially What Is This Thing Called Love. It was apparently written for an X Factor contestant, or something. It’s nothing like an Editors song, which is to the band’s credit, they are trying new things here. It’s a catchy, memorable ballad, the second best track after Sugar. Tom tries out a Chris Martin-style falsetto here – and, by golly, it works! His vocal range is truly impressive – if the lyrics are not. “What is this thing called love that you speak?” is like something emotionless aliens and robots say in pulp SF (I’d like to think this was deliberate). Despite the cheesy lyrics the song does have emotional grain to it and will resonate widely. Should be a big hit when released as a single (they’d be mad not to!)

Honesty comes next, another ballad but in the more traditional Editors vein, with circulating choppy guitars. Another excellent track, though the Coldplay “woah-ohs” are perhaps a step too far.

Then comes Nothing. This takes bit of getting used to, and on first listening the response is that the title perfectly sums it up. Featuring just Tom and a string section, this is a long meandering ballad (apparently there is a full instrumental live version) so totally unlike Editors that you would not know it was them if not for Tom’s voice (again wonderful here).

Back to business as usual, mostly, for the rest of the album. Formaldehyde is a bog-standard Editors rocker that will come as a relief to those put off by the preceding three tracks. The guitar work is reminiscent of Urbanowicz but not as good, obviously; the new band members have big shoes to fill and are merely competent here. Hyena is great, a highly memorable tune with cynical, world-weary lyrics. Two Hearted Spider (what a simply horrible title) piles on the angst and misery as the album takes a darker turn towards the end. The Phone Book is an acoustic ditty and some have accused it of being too lightweight but it is pleasant enough. Bird of Prey closes things on an anthemic note with pounding drums, keyboards, and silly lyrics (“you are a shiver / the gold and the silver”).

So overall you get a sense of a band simultaneously finding their feet after the departure of a founder member and stretching their wings. Hardcore fans may gripe at the some of the directions they have taken but Editors should be applauded for stepping bravely into uncharted territories Some may point out that fools venture where angels fear to tread but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Songs like What Is… prove Tom’s songwriting skills and time will allow the new members to bed in. What Editors do next is really theirs for the taking – on this showing they could do anything!

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