Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Editors - The Weight Of Your Love


It's easy to speculate why a band-mate would seek to depart from any band in this day's economic whimpering, but I'm sure many long-time followers of UK alt-rock outfit Editors, would perfectly be willing to have a punt as to the catalyst, if not the root of it. Like I said, speculation is but a vast trove of ideas and rumors that may or may not (more likely) stand as true. It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine, however, that 2009's synth-pop try-out In This Light And On This Evening could have been the game-changer in the [once] four-piece's relationship. Save for the lead pulse-beater Papillion - amid its pompous roll-along beats -  there wasn't much from the band's electronic attempts to pronounce the band's somberly climatic sound was a match made in career-shaping heaven. So away from the continual repetition of potential missed or lost causes gone astray, I wouldn't be surprised if crowds stand adamant in wanting the likes of Munich or Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors to make an appearance in live set-lists (and as early as possible too probably). So to find - four long-haul years later - Editors returning to that digestible intake of heart-on-the-sleeve/lips-on-the-microphone British rock in The Weight Of Your Love, does bring about some level of comfort if it does leave the nostril hairs odored with a hint of concern. And it's not the sound that may worry some, but it's the themes and...as the album title might suggest...another opportunity finally running out of excuses to be taken as simply missed.

'I'm a lump of meat where the heart beats/Electricity restarts me' leader Tom Smith explains on The Weight in that signature baritone range of his. And at a time when many a person's library still run the risk of overflowing with 'The...' prefixes, it at least reconfirms the feeling this band still have some measure of identity for themselves. So already - if the album title hadn't already suggested - we're cast in streaks of subjects regarding love, affliction, connectivity and so on. It's not exactly degrading, but given how well the band start off proceedings - I find myself really enjoying the stripped-back guitars and the greying rise of harmonics - Smith's clear distinction as the centre-piece of the track does grate on what is a fairly respectable opener. It's not his vocal range that's frustrating, but rather it's the emphasis and the emphasis on lyrics of which are placed in the production, that takes away from the music's more atmospheric and interesting take on these themes. Sugar, by contrast, isn't as dimly lit or as desaturated in its overwhelming consummation of sound, but the garage-leaning guitars and the closed-off percussion still conjure that similarly tarnished feel about the music. Smith feels slightly less protruded and centred around, but again the lyrics do leave the listener frowning in that same '...really?' way: 'You're like no one I know/You're the light from another World...It breaks my heart to love you'. There may be some more depth-defying meaning or sorrowful background, but it's hard to keep your focus straight when you're listening to someone who goes as far as to talking about comparisons with sugar and being swallowed whole.

I guess the potential reward, is that it gives A Ton Of Love some further backbone as to project itself - the track's slightly more auspicious and compact delivery making out to be one of possibly doubt or caution. It is of course Editors' obvious attempt at a reclaiming victory at collating guitar/drum/vocal combos to suit the arm-waving, manically-jumping stadiums and concert halls for the masses. But from ear-to-ear, sitting by one's own, the track ends up devoid of any considerable personality or immersion. Lyrically, Smith barely captivates or tugs at my intrigue or desire (tee-hee) for him to keep going. Vocally, his motivation and performance feels like something that might be written in tutorial form should they come up with a '...for dummies' edition on making Brit-styled rock anthems. The best moments - or should I say, the better opportunities - Editors create are when they pull everything back and the piano comes to ease the listener rather than flat-out pulverize them. What Is This Thing Called Love may not be Smith's most strongest or calculated vocal offering - at times going too far into falsetto mode; at times trying to reach a level that probably doesn't really need reaching - but I do feel the musical aesthetic and arrangement of strings and percussion especially actually try and bring emotion and colour to the track.

As we move further into the album, there's a clear distinction listeners can make between this record's aesthetic in its direction, and the direction upon which previous releases have taken by equal measure. Here, and what I take as an overwhelming positive and benefit then, is that the band musically know how to measure each one of their guitar arrangements and know precisely how fine or steady the percussion needs to be in one part, and follow it with a increased intensity that's more direct or paced in the next. Honesty is, as they say, the best policy because the gradual build-and-climbatizing of guitar tone and Smith's vocals on the track feel delicately more positioned, as if they're on the fine line between perfect harmony and utter dismay. His eventual cry to 'Shut this place down' is simple, but it captures the somewhat desperate cry of the track's context perfectly - helped of course by the very smooth delivery of strings in the background and subtle backing vocals too. So  for us to have this hopeful interquel only for the themes to revert back to love and heartbeats...and, literally, hearts is ultimately rather deflating. Formaldehyde has the crispest and clearest drum work of the entire album - bass too coming across really well in a track that is adorned by overlaying mass of sound - but again, my ears feel as if they're being forced to focus on the front-man's upbeat mutterings of the heart and its beat, which in truth, adds nothing as spectacular or prevailing the track appears to project itself towards us in.

Hyena could perhaps be the best case for Editors' argument that their sound does hold in itself a slightly more sonic captivation. Guitars here are, from the off, far more sleeker, and create for themselves a very clean groove and momentum that neither dictates nor passively strolls through the track. From it, the electric counterparts (which create an interesting contrast from the cleaner grooves to their more rash and scurried textures) and percussion act so as to react against it but fortunately don't stray too far from the desired path set out. Because of it, Smith too holds more of a control over his vocal delivery - falsetto parts are present, but thankfully are more nestled and better placed amid the song's production. Because of the coastal guitar hooks, the slightly more controlled and set-out objective pays off and Editors' sound doesn't feel in anyway desperate or overpowering in its attempts to appease or prevail above all. 


It's that less is more likeliness that gives Two Hearted Spider's reason for emotion and ambition its just reward. The distant eclipse of guitar strings that subtly passage themselves across the track sound like they could easily fit a movement to a ten-minute post-rock track. I just wish then, because of how rich and seemingly delicate the instruments are trying to be, that the track in its latter half was a little more considerate in trying to meet that goal rather than simply cascading its listener with illicit feedback and electric chords striking down from all around. Closer Bird of Prey suffers from the opposite effect, in that its delivery of piano and heavy percussion seems to suggest a much broader landscape, yet never really feels as if it fills that space with anything other than stretched chords and vocals. Further to that, the progression of the piece - which glides across with an uncanny lead-weight of drumbeats strapped to its underside, and regurgitating chord feedback benignly swirling around its eyesight - never for one moment convinces me there's actually something being reached for, or even...as I think about it...that it [both the track and the band] know what they're hoping to aim for or achieve here.

The most frustrating thing, and one I'm inclined to expel an even heavier sigh over, is that Editors have proven they're good at this dynamic and grand flavour of alternative rock. Unfortunately, the drawback to The Weight Of Your Love is that the ambition is lost to the sheer scale of their instrumentation. What's more is that here, Tom Smith feels like a singer/song-writer/lyricist who feels his emphasis on the subjects, and the methods to which he uses his vocal range, is of utmost priority and that everything else surrounding it is simply a reaction. While I can't question his endurance and his ambition to get to the heart of the themes he cares so deeply about - love, relationship, humanity, survival - it leaves the music on occasions devoid of reason and independence. Ultimately, both sides end up coming across as playing some petty 'anything you can do...' shit-slinging, all in the name of intricacy and intensity. Where the band's approach, collectively, is on subtlety and naked honesty, Smith is undoubtedly convincing in his stance as both a character in his concepts and a human being standing safely away from it all. But there's no getting away from the fact that as a creative, Smith suffers from being perceived as simply one whose quick to jump to the thesaurus, looking for other ways to express the exact same supposedly dire scenario in his lyrics. And dynamic or not, the rest of the band feel limited in offering a purpose or backbone to Smith's poetic dead ringers. At times, the response is provoking and adamantly emotive. But in others, it feels more like a contradiction or retaliation blinding the listener from the original context. '...I can do better' is what they whisper...and ironically, that's what most listeners will gladly agree with.
~Jordan

5.8

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