Music Reviews

Editors Violence

(PIAS) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

If the 2000’s post-punk revival scene in the UK and US was defined by bands who didn’t want to look like they were taking it too seriously, then Editors stand out as a strange relic. If in America Interpol were too cool to care about critics, and at home bands like The Libertines were too busy taking anything they could get their hands on, then Editors were the professionals - forever clean cut and focused. 

And, in large part, it worked for them. The band are UK’s biggest exports across all Europe, and by being a regular presence at home, they’ve avoided becoming a nostalgia act. This swell of support exists despite not really ever being consistent enough for critics and the general public to take to them, beyond huge singles like Munich or Papillion.

Knowing their new releases are unlikely to convert critics means they’re plying to an already won-over crowd which obviously plays to their advantage at this stage. Their festival-headlining ability means there’s a big enough audience to take risks because their fans have been staunchly loyal despite some quite major missteps. On Violence, they try to find a balance between that ability to try new things by bringing in Benjamin Power (Blanck Mass and Fuck Buttons) but also making sure they continue to follow a pretty set recipe for an Editors song. 

A key point of that recipe is obviously Thomas Smith’s voice, which remains the center point of the band. Here it continues to drip with pathos, which at its best sounds grand and gorgeous, and at its worse like a lackluster Paul Banks impersonation. As is often the case with Editors, it has to work with some questionable material. When Smith aims to go dark with his writing, the lyricism often borders on clichéd and parody.  Even on the title track, one of the best songs of their career, “baby we’re nothing but violence” is a lyric that takes a lot to sell. 

But, as has been the case for a decade, Smith just about manages. Perhaps it is the straight-faced delivery (or just by being backed with much more exciting, almost-danceable music) it is easy to buy into what he’s saying - or at least willing to ignore the flaws. There’s not perhaps the emotional pull the band is going for, but beyond that, Violence contains some of the most interesting songs of their career. Magazine and Hallelujah (So Low) stand out as tracks that almost sound agitated, with something always working and moving until they reach a satisfying crescendo. 

Those moments are padded out with other tracks that often toe the line into clean, friendly stadium rock. And as is the case with the majority of clean stadium rock, it’s perfectly fine, if unremarkable. The opener, Cold, for example, is a fairly generic plea for a partner to stay until the guitars kick in for the final third with a sprinkling of oohs and aahs. Darkness at the Door would feel more in place on the Killers’ latest record, rather than the Joy Division one that they were probably aiming for. These tracks don’t add much, but they don’t make Violence any less listenable.

Smith’s voice only truly gets into its own when it's allowed room to breathe. On the more uptempo tracks, it often sounds heavy and lethargic, but on the spare No Sound But The Wind, it's able to almost float over little more than a solemn piano. The track first appeared on the soundtrack to a Twilight movie in 2009, but that version featured a harsh chord progression which has now softened and been accompanied by some swirling backing vocals.

That perhaps sums up Violence. Editors are the same band as a decade ago, who are largely doing the same thing but slightly differently. As has plagued their discography, there are a couple of missteps where the band’s self-indulgence becomes melodramatic, but it’s an album that keeps on surprising. Sure, Violence may make you roll your eyes as much as tap your feet, but when everything comes together, Editors manage to sound like a genuinely exciting prospect for the first time in years.