Editors - Violence
Naked, statuesque bodies, covered in grime with clean hair. Connected and aggressive, intimate without being sexualized; the album art says a lot of words, and there are as many sounds to match. From the early Britpop exercise of 2005’s The Back Room to 2015’s spacey and mystical In Dream, Editors have crafted a sound that is equal parts electronic and guitar rock, with their new release Violence being the best of this combination so far.
On the opener “Cold”, we’re introduced to the careworn yet still energetic and attention-grabbing baritone of front-man Tom Smith, who implores a past partner to remain close, although separate. Musically, we’re delivered the band’s thesis, programmed drums and minimal synths bow to pianos and strings, before giving way to the full band. It’s a dynamic display that showcases their ambition to straddle two worlds, and they do it effectively.
Jangly acoustic guitars and a production more specifically electronic, “Hallelujah (So Low)” seems equal parts Dust Brothers era Beck and Leonard Cohen in the songwriting, with a bare and dry sound that Tom’s lyrics of “dust and bones” encapsulate perfectly. The electro freak-out chorus was likely supplied by Fuck Bottoms member Benjamin Powers, who was mentioned as a contributor to the album as a whole. While an original track and personal album standout, the choral arrangement of the pre-chorus is obviously derivative of “Paranoid Android”, but they pull it off.
With the title track, the band shows off their airy and unobtrusive trance chops. A four-on-the-floor kick and anxious percussion allow Smith to once again muse on a broken or breaking relationship. The color is earthy, and Smith appropriately “digs holes” throughout. Overall, this one does nothing special, but it’s a thoughtful vibe nonetheless.
“Darkness At The Door”, in the vein of indie pop like Phoenix, finds Editors doing nothing too original. It’s nice Pop, however, and admittedly grew on me with repeated listens. I’m reminded of Joyful Noise artist and of Montreal veteran Kishi Bashi, only without the string virtuosity and classical aesthetic.
The swells of “Nothingness” were seemingly made for alternative radio, and again find Editors sticking to a formula that may not be their own. That being said, the vocal is impassioned, and the song does take off in the end when a soaring lead guitar with interesting harmonies take the song in an adventurous direction.
The album’s lead single “Magazine” begins with an ominous children’s choir before Smith holds court, weaving through a driving instrumental that culminates each chorus with a halftime breakdown. “Talk the loudest with a clenched fist” sings Smith and this song delivers with a measured punch. Third radio song in a row, but thankfully the band finds its own sound on this one; letting it all hang out with an exciting and political burner.
Things come way down on “No Sound But The Wind”, a piano ballad that’s pure Neil Diamond and The National in its quiet power and sincerity. More Leonard Cohen influence in the lyrics, it’s not hard to imagine his recent passing caused Smith to revisit his catalog for influence. “Help me to carry the fire” is a standout image, and invokes the album’s cover of three bodies in mutual support.
Everything is bared on “Counting Spooks”, an ambitious indie- rock meets classic rock scream into the night. It burns slow, but holds your attention, reminiscent Phosphorescent’s 2013 classic “Song For Zula”. It switches up halfway to a new- wave dance with strings while Smith tells us that he’s “holding it together”. He could be referring to the abrupt shift this song takes without losing a beat. A big, swampy bass, grand arrangement, and well-crafted melody make this a standout track in the band’s catalogue.
The Editors end on a high note with “Belong”, a contemplative, poetic, and somber tune that seems positively operatic. Conceptual and bold, the arrangement takes you on a journey through its creator’s own heartbeat; close as can be on an album about the distances between us.
Overall, the album is a worthwhile listen, not perfect and rarely groundbreaking, but definitely deserving of commendation and a near future revisit. It starts off strong before losing some steam, but then rebounds with the best tracks saved for last. It’s a welcome addition to the band’s discography, fulfilling the promise of early electronic fusions like “Camera” and refining the sound of In Dream, while also marred by a sometimes transparent desire to write for the masses. Their intention to blend electronic and rock with classic song structures and deep lyrics create a great sound when the intentions are right.
Favorite Tracks: Counting Spooks, Belong, Hallelujah, Magazine
Least Favorite Track: Nothingness