Editors' fourth record has taken quite some time to emerge amid a period of change for the band. Yet it finds them revisiting largely familiar territory, albeit in a triumphant and skilful way. Originally slated for a 2011 release, album number four was to follow the more experimental curve found on 2009's In This Light And On This Evening. But, following the amicable departure of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz due to Editors' "musical direction" last year, the new material was overhauled. The addition of two new band members in the meantime means that although these songs don't push the envelope, they also don't sound like treading water.
Lead singer Tom Smith has been vocal in drawing comparisons between The Weight Of Your Love and 80's and 90's American rock. While that's certainly an accurate description of what is to be found here, it's also strikingly similar to some of Editors' best work to date as well. Predominantly jettisoning the electronic tendencies of their last album, there are echoes of the likes of The Cure, early U2, and Depeche Mode that you can spot from a mile off too. Indeed, the guitar found on opener 'The Weight' feels oddly reminiscent of 'Personal Jesus'. Perhaps the biggest debt though is to R.E.M.'s back catalogue. Ignoring the fact that 'Hyena' borrows a track title from Stipe and co., there's no doubting that new guitarist Justin Lockey has been taking notes from Peter Buck.
Lockey's recent project White Belt, Yellow Tag showed that he was no stranger to crafting catchy riffs. But here he seems to top himself, giving Editors a renewed sense of purpose in the process. Take for example lead single 'A Ton Of Love' where he's in full stadium rock mode, or the country of 'The Phone Book', his presence is keenly felt throughout. But it's not Lockey that seems to be the key ingredient to the strongest songs to be found on The Weight Of Your Love. That accolade goes to Elliot Williams' synths and strings. While understated for much of the record, they start to come to the fore on 'What Is This Thing Called Love', almost forcing Smith to abandon his usual baritone in favour of an impressive falsetto performance. It's taken one step further on perhaps the heart of the record 'Nothing', which is fully orchestrated, without any hints of guitar to be found. If this is the shape of things to come for future Editors' albums, I certainly wouldn't complain.
As always, Smith's vocals provide a sheet of darkness to proceedings. His distinctive voice narrates emotional turmoil for the 21st century. Loosely connecting the tracks with the theme of love, he paints a picture that is, at times, uniquely twisted (who'd have ever thought there was a romantic angle to be found in 'Formaldehyde'?). The vulnerability he displays in lyrics like: "every conversation within you, starts a celebration in me, 'til I got nothing left" ('Nothing') is balanced with bitterness throughout. Take for example his ability to sour traditional love imagery on 'Sugar': "The sugar on your soul, you're like no-one I've known, you're the light from another world. You swallow me whole with just a mumbled hello."
So while it's very much business as usual for Editors, The Weight Of Your Love was never going to be the pinnacle of their achievements because of all the backroom changes and prolonged gestation. But, bearing that in mind, it's a strong effort that benefits from the personnel changes. Fans of their first two albums will certainly find much to enjoy here, but it's unlikely to grab the attention of a wider audience. It's undoubtedly the darkest love album you're likely to hear all year though.
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