“If something has to chance then it always does …” goes a famous lyric of the track Bullets from EDITORS debut album the The Back Room from 2005. And with their fourth one it feels like these words are more appropriate in the band context than before. The band has gone through rough times after their last album In This Light And On This Evening from 2009. They struggled to find new sounds and inspiration by working with former producer Flood again – ultimately resulting in the departure of lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz in early 2012 due to musical differences. There was a lack of perspective for the new wave rockers under the guidance of charismatic frontman Tom Smith. The pressure was high, an already planned headlining slot at last year’s Rock Werchter – the band’s biggest show to date – forced them to dare a new start and line-up, resulting in their fourth album The Weight Of Your Love.
EDITORS are now a quintet with guitarist Justin and keyboarder Elliott having the task to bring new life into the struggling machine. The new members are one point, the recording sessions in Nashville are another one. Tom Smith wanted a more American sounding album. Although the result is way less blues and country as probably expected it’s a change from the last longplayer. The Weight Of Your Love is far more organic, way less electronic than the dark predecessor. But it’s also quite clean in terms of production, very slick and harmonic in its sounds. It’s a logical continuation of 2007’s sophomore album An End Has A Start with new elements but with the lack of some lovely characteristics that once made EDITORS a bit more special than many other bands.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t sing about death” – opening track The Weight starts heavy and dark with Smith once more unfolding his unique baritone. But it’s also quite epic and big sounding. The following Sugar discovers the dark territory again, sounding a bit like early 90s U2 before lead single A Ton Of Love opens up the curtains and enlightens the album with a powerful, almost SPRINGSTEEN-like, stadium anthem. And yes, there even is a saxophone in it. This bright and slick sound might be a hard change for all EDITORS fans. The upcoming kitsch ballad What Is This Thing Called Of Love is even tougher for them. This might be the most COLDPLAY-esque the band has ever sounded but it works due to Smiths unique vocal work and the tender lyrics about a crumbling relationship? A final salute to Urbanowicz maybe?
This new quite soft and slick direction might alienate a few listeners at the start but especially the first tracks are strong enough to convince you within a few listening moments. Unfortunately EDITORS struggle to keep that level within the next tracks. The replaceable ballads Honesty and Nothing are drowning in strings and clichés – including really unusual “oh-oh-ohhos” singing. Same goes for the – at least a bit more upbeat-sounding – Formaldehyde. By now it looks like the band have lost track. The main problem might not be the fact that the songs are weak but that the sound is just to meaningless, to predictable and emotionless. The urgency of past EDITORS is gone, produced to death in the Nashville studios. Songs like Hyena or the sexy Two Hearted Spider want to break out, want to be dark, heavy ad aggressive – but the sound does not support it. There are no edges within the music and Tom’s voice. Edges we all felt for in the past years. The emotion within Smiths voice and songs is just way less present than on previous records. Well, we ain’t feeling it.
But it’s not gone entirely. And at the time when you think ‘That’s it’ there comes a song like closing track Bird Of Prey, probably the finest song in the longplayer. “Rain down through my hands / Scream out like children / My heart is a church bell ringing” – Smith delivers a haunting gospel prayer, supported by Ed Lay’s pumping drums and a great piano melody. The instrumentation is relatively simple, giving the song and it’s urgent message more space to unfold. And maybe everything is not lost for EDITORS although The Weight Of Your Love clearly marks their weakest musical output so far. And you already tend to quote Bullets a second time. “You don’t need this disease” – what the band needs is just a bit more focus. They might be band again but they are still looking for a new sound that bridges past and future. Good luck with this challenge.