Category Archives: Reviews

Editors – The Weight of Your Love – Review

Music by numbers from the well established moody rockers.

The Weight Of Your Love - Album Cover

I want to preface this review by saying that I would describe myself as a fan of Editors. In the last 3 months I have listened to them 316 times, and of those 43 plays are just for cracking single ‘An End Has A Start’ off their similarly titled second album. Why am I saying this? Because I want you to know that the following sentence doesn’t come from bias. Editors suck. It just takes a fan of theirs to realise exactly how and why.

This is the fourth album from Editors, and crucially it follows the departure of lead guitarist Chris Urbanowicz who played a major role in defining their signature sound. I want to take some time to dissect this sound because if any band can be accused of making the same song again and again, it’s Editors. They created the template on debut album The Back Room, and it goes a little something like this.

  1. Big Guitar Riff: high up, lots of reverb, mainly down-stroke quavers around 4 notes
  2. Verse: Lead guitar cuts out, voice sings 1 or 2 repeated declarative phrases over bass, drums and strummed rhythm guitar.
  3. Chorus: Riff from 1 returns as vocals create another declarative phrase as drums play Indie Disco rhythm
  4. Verse as before
  5. Chorus as before
  6. Bridge: most instruments cut out as another declarative statement is sung over pounding 4 to the floor drums
  7. Chorus as before, again.

Now, you may look at that and say: ‘That’s just a classic song structure from every rock band in history’ and you’d almost be right. The problem for Editors is twofold. First, their riffs and sound are just far too similar, if you care to listen to the songs ‘Munich’, ‘An End Has A Start’, ‘Blood’, ‘A Ton of Love’, ‘The Racing Rats’ and ‘Lights’, there comes a point where you know exactly what’s going to happen and how. Secondly considering the bands that Editors take their influence from (and it’s a good list of bands) R.E.M., Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen and Interpol, these are all bands that could subvert song structures incredibly well and still create an energetic dark sound. In fact Editors are one of the bands that created a ‘pop-post-punk’ if you will, as they took the elements of (what I consider at least to be) the best rock sub-genre and made them as simple and as basic as possible. Lyrics about death! Rapid downstroke guitars! Indie disco drums! They are part of the reason any band that remotely sounds post-punky now get dismissed as Joy Division-copiers by lazy music journalists (me? never!).

They do pay the price for this over-simplification of one of music’s most potent genres. Specifically, that when the tempo drops so does the quality of the song. This is Editors no. 1 fault, and, I think, the reason they will never and have never been more than 3rd or 4th headliner on a festival day. Editors inability to write a convincing ballad is so vital because, again, the bands they are influenced by are fantastic at that, often having ballads as some of their most famous songs ever. R.E.M.? ‘Nightswimming’. Interpol? ‘NYC’ or the sublime ‘Untitled’. Joy Division? ‘Atmosphere’. Even U2, who lead the influences on this latest record have ‘With or Without You’. Consider the latest attempt from The Weight of Your Love, career low ‘The Phone Book’ (see video below), an awkward slice at railroad blues laden with clichés and sounding like the indie answer to ‘I’m Yours’ (have a guess if that’s a complement or not).

What compounds all of this is that their ballad ineptitude is symptomatic of a much more worrying problem: Editors have nothing to say. Now this gets bandied around a lot as a quick putdown because it’s very hard to argue or explain. But I’m still going to have a go at it. On the opener of this album singer Tom Smith sings the line ‘I promised myself / I wouldn’t sing about death / I know I’m getting boring’. It’s true, he is getting boring, but not just when he sings about death. Take the first single they ever released as Editors, ‘Bullets’ and look at the lyrics. Of 42 lines only 6 of them are not variations on ‘you don’t need this disease’. That’s embarrassing, but repetition alone isn’t enough to dismiss them as vapid. Smith makes a point of saying his lyrics are indirect to allow for different interpretations, so far so like their influences. But the problem isn’t that the lyrics are too vague, (Micheal Stipe’s lyrics are bizzare and often impenetrable, but you always feel there’s something there to find) it’s that they’re actually specific enough to reveal that there’s nothing under the surface.

Consider the chorus to my favourite song by them, ‘An End Has A Start’: ‘You came on your own / And that’s how you will leave / With hope in your hands / and air to breathe’. All you have is the central idea behind the most famous indie song ever in ‘How Soon Is Now’ and then an awkward rhyme for ‘leave’ shoehorned in. Is it really pedantry to ask why on earth the ‘air to breathe’ is significant. What about the lyrics in ‘All Sparks’. Sure, a standard metaphor for the fact that everything dies, but that is it. There is nothing else there to discover or feel. It’s hardly ‘Losing My Religion’. What makes it infuriating is that every Editors song sounds like it does have a really deep meaning. When Smith howls out ‘If a plane were to fall from the sky / How big a hole would it leave in the surface of the earth?’ It really sounds like the most profound question ever asked of man. Except that simply reaching for a real meaning (what significance do all of our actions truly have?) seems like pushing it too far. It’s like Smith is genuinely tormented by his inability to understand the required physics to calculate a plane’s impact crater.

Ironically on the new album they have arguably improved on all of these past faults. The lyrics, while still clichéd, do at least have some real meaning. It’s heartening to hear Smith sing about how much he cares for his family, even if it does bring up his partner Edith Bowman, who is currently being a very poor filler for the Adam and Joe slot on 6 Music. And with Urbanowicz gone, the band are less drawn to recreating those same song structures without his iconic reverby guitar riffs reminding us of their old songs.

But unfortunately for the poor Editors they are damned just as much if they do as if they don’t. I said at the start of this article that I am an Editors fan, and despite all that I’ve written above I stand by it. What makes me an Editors fan is that when those tempos get fast, the indie disco drums come out, and Smith yells a convincing but vacuous statement it is exciting. When they produce their formula it really bloody works, no matter how much of a pretentious pseudo-intellectual blogger (cough) you may be.

And so, Editors failure to conform to their past successes results in an album that just feels devoid of purpose. The Weight of Your Love is the perfect 5 out of 10. It isn’t properly bad. It has moments that show Editors doing what they do well in fast paced singles. It has Editors at their worst, in the ballads like ‘The Phone Book’, and it manages to not sound exactly like what they’ve done before. It is an album by numbers: new, old, good, bad, and definitively Editors.

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Low Duo – Dive and Slide into the Blue – Review

Charming lo-fi folk from two Sheffield brothers.

Low Duo - Press photo

Low Duo are, unsurprisingly a duo of brothers from Sheffield. Their music fits vaguely into the genre of alt-folk, alongside other lo-fi luminaries like Sparklehorse and Elliott Smith and this record certainly matches their gloomy aesthetics. This is the debut album for the group and it follows three fantastically named EPs (Hope and Despair, Fear and Failure, and Truth and Regret) which give you an idea of the level of melancholy we are dealing with.

The bands greatest strength is its commitment to minimalism. Each song is really only two layers, a vocal and a guitar, the latter of which is generally acoustic, and when it isn’t it is rough and ragged, like on opener ‘Keep Your Sparkle in the Pain’. The effect is unsettling, and aligns with a lot of the creepy themes running through the record. Most songs have a reference to death and/or pain and constantly use animals as a crucial part of their imagery, as in ‘Eagle’ below.

This focus on nature and fits the extreme lo-fi recording style, the band sound wild, with all the earnestness, calm and savagery that that would imply. It’s what Bon Iver’s debut album might have sounded like had he not been obsessed with girls and instead run naked through the woods every day.

According to the band the album is about ‘putting yourself back together’ and there is optimism tucked away amongst the overwhelming gloom. They manage to capture the Sparklehorsian trick of finding beauty in the dirt, as with ‘Born In To A Spider’ that is simultaneously skin-crawling and tender.

The album isn’t perfect, at only 8 tracks, none of which run longer that 3:09, it feels far too transient for a true debut LP. It also suffers from its maker’s devotion to lo-fi recording: none of the songs ever feel truly powerful. They pull off tender and bare very well, but there is no obvious single and nothing that jumps out on first listen.

The true highlight however is album closer ‘Bloodhound, where singer Leigh Greenwood lets his voice drop below its usual high tone, and it offers a more calm and reflective take on love’s brutality. The gentler approach really pays off to match the lyrics, and some delicate ooh-ing results in a nice earworm to take from the album’s end.

Click to go and listen to it

Dive and Slide into the Blue came out a couple weeks ago, and I should’ve reviewed it a while ago, I’m sorry. As penance, please accept these links to the bands facebook, soundcloud and bandcamp, where you can buy their album for as little as £2, which is very generous.

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Laces – Beachcombers EP – Review

Laces - Beachcombers

Laces are a duo originating from Bradford, consisting of long time musical conspirators Ben Walker and Patrick Wanzala-Ryan. This is their debut release, an EP of five songs, tentatively titled Beachcombers. While they can list influences that would delight any music obsessive in Can, Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Aphex Twin and Fela Kuti, it’s incredibly clear that a certain Mr. Yorke and a certain Radio-Headed Band are the real parents of the ‘Laces sound’, no coincidence that ‘Keep Your Eyes Down’ declares ‘You told us this was how to disappear. Which is to say that they merge Indie-informed songs with a post-Kid A predisposition to experiment electronically. Each level of guitar strumming will be counteracted by Eraser-esque drum machine, and for every percussion part, and ambient echo will whirl in the background.

There are only two true ‘songs’ on the EP, the tracks ‘Screens’ and ‘Keep Your Eyes Down’, the surrounding tracks serve as Intro, Interlude and Outro respectively. Which is not to say that these tracks are worthless, far from it, like Alt-J and The XX they actually give the EP a sense of framing, which is a trick most small records ignore. Listening to Beachcombers feels suitably like a journey to a desert island, ‘Hard Boiled Wonderland’ is a gentle arrival upon a calm beach, while ‘Screens’ then gives us a pleasant solid song as we start looking around. ‘Lift’ is a discovery of a demented circus (with echoes of Pale Seas) subverting the calm of the opener and shifting us up a gear to bring us into ‘Keep Your Eyes Down’, a mocking fable that, along with clattering percussion, lends the menace arms and legs. All that’s left is for closer ‘Ghost Woken’, an Aphex-indebted ambient track to drift our corpse back over the beach and out to sea.

Overall the EP is an enjoyable, if transient listen. The duo’s flexibility with all sorts of sounds gives the tracks a lot of variety, and they manage to come up with lots of ear worms like lead track ‘Screens” cry of ‘bleed yourself blind’. The record is more a sign of promise in the group than a burst on to the scene, more tracks like the clearly dominant ‘Screens’ would provide that service, but as a first release this is a worthy endeavor. Furthermore, the band are currently offering this on a free download from their bandcamp site, so there aren’t many excuses not to pick this up and have a listen. Fans who can’t wait enough for the Atoms for Peace album will find this might just help them bide their time till its release.

laces live

You can find Laces on Facebook here, and download the Beachcombers EP here on a pay-what-you-want basis.

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