“We’ve already sacked the guitarist once…we can do it again!” smirked Tom Smith at the recent launch show for Editors’ fourth album, The Weight of Your Love. Joking he may have been, but if truth be told the past four years have been less than jolly for the Birmingham band.
Departed member Chris Urbanowicz’s screeching guitars were vital to the Editors mix, almost as much as the deep vocals and dark, poetic lyrics of Tom Smith. The latter come to the fore during opener ‘The Weight’ as, verging on self-parody, the conscious frontman sings “I promised myself, I wouldn’t sing about death, I know I’m getting boring now”. ‘Sugar’ is a bassy, brooding track which has served as an excellent atmospheric, mythical opener for recent shows, whilst ‘A Ton of Love’ is all out Echo and the Bunnymen; think ‘The Cutter’ or ‘Back of Love’, with a hint of U2 during calls of “Desire!”. It is a bouncy number which proves to be a somewhat misleading lead single; the most upbeat moment of the album.
‘Nothing’ is a stirring, string-led anthem destined for the movie soundtracks. Indeed, the band may have travelled to Nashville to give the album an American feel, but ‘Nothing’ is about as English as the Last Night at the Proms. Noticeably, the album version is significantly different from rockier earlier displays of the song at Rock Werchter and warm-up shows last year. Smith has admits that the studio version may “disappoint some people”, but in this case Clint Mansell’s additions strike the right note. That being said, unless the track is given an orchestra-backed outing at the Royal Albert Hall it is unlikely to reach its full live potential.
Whilst the adjustments on ‘Nothing’ work a treat, the overall process of unplugging the Fenders takes an edge off Editors’ trademark sound. It’s certainly more Elbow than it is Interpol. Perhaps the Brum-rockers are a victim of their own success, but The Weight lacks the energy of The Back Room or An End Has a Start. On ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ Smith attempts a rare falsetto, an odd moment on a song departs significantly from the Ian Curtis of typical comparisons. It is to less surprise than it should be that Tom Smith had originally written the song for an X Factor winner. ‘The Phone Book’ is lyrically splendid – “It doesn’t matter to me, I’m an apple you’re the tree, I won’t fall when you’re shook” – if somewhat mundane. ‘Formaldehyde’ is catchy and more exciting, if mainly for Smith’s baritone repeating of the tricky title.
Editors clearly faced a crossroads with this album; to produce a repeat of their first two albums would be making little progress. Experiment to the extent of 2009‘s electronic In This Light and On This Evening and they’d be addressing criticisms of veering off course and abandoning their fan-base. The feeling here, though, is that the attempt at stadium sized grandeur is a little half-hearted; lofty orchestras and choirs are thrown into the mix, but tellingly during live performances Smith delivers the new material almost as a solo artist with a solitary acoustic guitar. “Jumping through hoops with dissention in the troops” sings Smith, looking back at the acrimony of the past four years. The Weight of Your Love suggests Editors have been bruised, if by no means defeated.
…Robert is listening to Portishead – ‘Chase The Tear’…