They’ve hired the man who made Kings Of Leon a stadium band, but their fourth album is delivered with a shrug
For all their moody posturing, Editors always seemed like a band who really wanted to churn out radio-friendly stadium rock for dads who don’t want to play Joy Division in the car in case it scares the kids. Sure enough, in the four years since their last album, 2009’s ‘In This Light And On This Evening’, the British band made time to part ways with guitarist Chris Urbanowicz, who didn’t want to travel the same musical road, and hire producer Jacquire King, the man who won a Grammy for helping to turn Kings Of Leon into a stadium band on ‘Use Somebody’.
Editors’ new era starts inoffensively enough, with the baleful but over-inflated ‘The Weight’ and the Depeche Mode strut of ‘Sugar’. And lead single ‘A Ton Of Love’ is a decent show of intention. It’s a big, dumb, lolloping St Bernard of a song that could pass for ’80s U2 as fronted by Eddie Vedder. It’s not until ‘What Is This Thing Called Love’ that things go wrong. Frontman Tom Smith tries a falsetto and Jesus suffering Christ, it is awful. It comes as no surprise to learn that Smith wrote this power(less)-ballad after betting he could write a tune for a former X Factor contestant. The unnamed singer got dropped and Smith kept the song for himself. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the talent show stooge sighing with relief.
It’s uphill from there, but barely. Live fan-favourite ‘Nothing’ has been entirely rescored with the help of Clint Mansell, the former Pop Will Eat Itself man who scored Requiem For A Dream, but the end result is to remove any trace of urgency. The similarly string-laden ‘Nothing’ gives Smith the chance to put on his best sad Springsteen voice, but The Boss would never commit the cardinal sin of being quite this boring.
‘Formaldehyde’, which you can at least dance to, is the high point, the sound of the band cutting loose a little. But after that the album runs out of energy. ‘Hyena’ sounds like an Editors covers band who’ve been drafted in to write a song in which they try to second-guess what people expect from an Editors song. There’s not a lot to laugh about. The stench of death is about the record, but not in a sexy, existential way. ‘Two Hearted Spider’ wants to conjure up words like “brooding intensity”, but could only really be considered dark by the sort of person who sleeps with a night-light. ‘The Phone Book’ takes a stab at folky Americana that’ll make you wish it could give them one back. By ‘Bird Of Prey’ it’s entirely apparent that absolutely nobody gives a shit any more. It’s so phoned-in I had to fight the temptation to hang up. It all ends not with a bang, but a shrug.
The most telling line comes on ‘Honesty’, when Smith plots “a rocking-horse getaway”. At first glance that’s nonsensical, but after spending time with this record, the image of a man trying to gallop but instead wobbling back and forth pointlessly seems horribly apt.
Kevin EG Perry