There is one statement to sum up The Weight of Your Love, the fourth effort from Scottish indie-rockers Editors. No Chris Urbanowicsz. The guitarist’s departure from the band in 2011 due to the dreaded ‘musical differences’ should have served as a big, red warning sign to Editors fans of what was to come. The arrival of new members Justin Lockney and Elliot Williams, and the ascendance of Jacquire King to producer (the pioneer behind Kings of Leon’s new ‘stadium rock’ sound) would also signal a change in musical direction away from the edgy, sinister and alternative sound of Editors earlier Edinburgh underground days toward a more mainstream friendly audience. Frontman Tom Smith’s declaration that he ‘could write a song for an X-Factor winner’ only deepens the precipice it seems Editors are prepared to throw their musical souls into in order to acquire their place upon the pantheon of ‘success through public acknowledgement’. So, how does Tom Smith fare?
Opening track ‘The Weight’ (not an ode to the Canadian folk- rockers The Band) serves well as a false dawn for the Urbanowicsz-less band. The heavier sound of the opener, led by a thumping bass-line from Russell Leetch and furnished with wonderfully Jim Morrison-esque vocals from Tom Smith is a great start to an otherwise dreadfully dull record.
Moving on to ‘Sugar’, we discover the consistent problem with this album, many of the songs sound essentially like copies of each other. ‘Sugar’, whilst possessing a wonderfully fuzzy bass tone, is still just a poor imitation of ‘The Weight’ and does not justify its plus-four minute runtime. Another problem with the album, most of its tracks are over inflated and become tiresome before they get going.
Single ‘A Ton of Love’ raises the standard considerably. The chorus is up there with the best Editors have to offer. The howling refrain of ‘desire’ echoes over a chugging bassline and wonderfully twangy guitar lines, whilst Lockney’s dark and mysterious power chords blend nicely with melancholic piano chords.
Next, however, the record takes an impressive nose-dive quality-wise and ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ represents perhaps the worst song Smith has ever written. The sickly-sweet string laden opening sounds like a rushed James Blunt knock-off and Smith’s falsetto is quite simply awful. Perhaps he wasn’t wrong when he suggested his talents could be better employed by one Simon Cowell.
This seems to be the answer to the question as to why Urbanowicsz and Smith parted company. Smith has become bogged down in the quagmire of sentimental balladry made evident throughout this record. What’s missing is the fresh and edgy sound of Editors first few acclaimed records (The Back Room and An End Has a Start); and the album only manages to attain this sound and any relevancy when Editors stick to their tried and tested formula of a kind of melange of Franz Ferdinand’s pop-rock and the dark and eerie grind of Joy Division. ‘Formaldehyde’ and ‘Hyena’ are good examples of this, and represent high points for The Weight of Your Love. But for the most part poor song writing and a lack of excitement (as evident on the all too similar ‘Nothing’, ‘Two-Hearted Spider’, ‘The Phone Book’ and ‘Bird of Prey’) triumph.
It was never obvious, but it seems that Chris Urbanowicsz is the beating heart of Editors musical body. With it gone, so has the Editors appeal.