Tag Archives: Rock

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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21/2/13 Public Service Broadcasting (+ Pivotal), The Railway, Winchester


Last night I headed to Winchester to have a go at actually being a proper music journalist for once. The main attraction was Public Service Broadcasting, a duo that merge archive films from WW2 and after with music that references Post-Rock, Radiohead and Krautrock. If you’ve ever wanted to boogie to the blitz this was your gig. Unfortunately unless you’d booked in advance you weren’t going to get in, the 6music favourites had managed to sell-out the venue completely and it was packed tight, a good friend even informed me Matt Horne was there. While I got to pretend to be Lester Bangs going backstage and doing interviews with PSB as well as support band Pivotal (watch this space!), I managed to miss most of the opening act Iain Cooper, who seemed a pleasant enough acoustic guitar man from what I heard.

Pivotal

While I snuck to the front of the ever-expanding crowd, second band Pivotal gatherered themselves on stage. I had caught them once before, supporting Slow Club last year at The Joiners. Back then I’d been mightily impressed and particularly taken with the song ‘Spitting Rivets’, so when frontman Lee announced “Hi, we’re Pivotal and this song’s called Spitting Rivets” I was both pleased and impressed by them throwing their apparent best track up first. Their music is a dark post-punk sound where synth-keys, bass, drums and reverb-laden guitar swirl together while singer Lee Pearce’s vocals alternate between a brooding Ian Curtis-esque baritone and and a powerful anguished shout. Often the transition between these two styles can make for the most captivating moments in their music. They’ve just finished recording a bunch of tracks for an EP, and if they’ve managed to capture half of how good they sounded last night then it will be an incredible record. Their songwriting has improved drastically since they impressed me over a year ago, and their level of performance was astounding. They benefitted from an unusual stage layout whereby drummer Chloe Elliot and keyboardist Lucy Pearce were on the sides allowing Lee Pearce and bassist Ben Johnson to play off each other and the crowd. The new songs they’ve written all sounded fantastic with highlights being a song that moved between being in 3 and 4 (scoring huge drumming nerd points) and their closing number which featured some impressive musicianship from each member. I wasn’t the only one impressed though, as the crowd grew ever more responsive to the songs. After Lee aplogised for having broken his E-bow for a track, its end was met with a shout of “You should break more E-bows” from a man near the front. I have no fear saying Pivotal are absolutely my favourite band to come out of Southampton, their sound doesn’t match any of the music other local acts are making and their songs are pretty damn fantastic. Which makes the wait for their EP pretty exciting. Go like their facebook page here, you won’t regret it.

After Pivotal were a band called JayetAL, an electronic post-rock band who made some damn impressive sounds by merging dense electronics with live drums, keys and bass. The only problem being that with so much of their sound coming from pre-recorded loops and samples it was difficult to connect much to what was going on aside from being fairly impressed at the skill on display. Realising it wasn’t quite my thing meant I decided to head to the bar to grab a drink before the main attraction, Public Service Broadcasting could get on stage. Which they did, to huge cheers, once they’d constructed their set with an enormous projecter dead centre, the two members, J Willgoose Esq., wielding synths and guitars alike, and Wrigglesworth on drums and triggers (Roland SPD-SX, tech-heads). The crowd was packed out and I paid the price for not sticking with JayetAL as the small size of The Railway left much of the projected screen blocked by fans in front. Nevertheless I had enough vision to enjoy the gig and what struck me most was how faultlessly Public Service Broadcasting bridged the gap between their recordings/videos and the energy of a live show. Their intensely crafted music builds and rises wonderfully, the climax of ‘New Dimensions In Sound’ (a track they decided not to add to their upcoming album) was phenomenal, testament to the fact that even without the samples that give the band their name, their music can stand alone.

Another highlight was the way in which Public Service Broadcasting engaged with the audience. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who is yet to see them, but we were laughing and cheering in equal measure. The virtual frontman engaged the crowd better than most rock bands I’ve seen. Their music has found a subtly powerful edge in the way it uses these broadcasts, and a particularly fascinating moment happened with the close of ‘If War Should Come’, where the last seconds of the song announced that war had indeed come, and the audience that was whooping and clapping after every other song, fell akwardly silent, hit by the sheer significance of those words. It was a touching, human moment, and gave a great amount of weight to the (previously thought) tongue-in-cheek motto of ‘Teaching the lessons of the past with the music of the future’. Other highlights were a song which had their name as its main sample and a song about fashion that had great music. The arrival of ‘Spitfire’ gained instant cheers, no doubt due to it’s success on 6music, and new single ‘Signal 30’ went down incredibly well, its heavy rock flavour causing a vast proportion of the crowd to begin to bust a move.

With more of PSB’s unique stage banter signalling the close of their set, the audience resolutely demanded more. In good fashion the duo launched into the optimistic ‘Everest’ for their encore. And as the thronging masses filed out I don’t think there was any doubt that Public Service Broadcasting lived up to their challenge of making their live show far more than what is on the record. Their debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, is fast approaching, and at this rate is going to make quite a splash. Do not underestimate Public Service Broadcasting.

Public Service Broadcasting

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20/2/13 – NME Tour, Bournemouth – Review


nme tour

So yesterday a well organised trip down (up?) to Bournemouth took place to go and see our nearest branch of the NME’s tour, the four bands on offer being Peace, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and Django Django. Having already seen the first two at The Joiners, I felt confident they would put on a good show and so it was with a generally optimistic air that I left my house. Of Miles Kane, however, I am more skeptical. None of his songs have ever grabbed me at all, and much of his style and attitude makes me think he’s just a poor man’s Paul Weller. So discovering that he had fallen ill and would not be playing didn’t really affect me too much. Although I was disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to prove me wrong, I expect he knew I was coming and feared my judgemental scorn so chickened out, a reasonable move for anyone in that situation.

Peace

So after a minor race for the loo we arrived in time to enter the crowd as Peace took to the stage. They made an odd choice in opening with three songs from their soon to be released debut album, rather than any of their known singles or EP tracks. What made it even weirder is that these songs seemed to tone down a lot of the psychadelic/afrobeat influences that made tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ so brilliant. I definitely noticed an unexpected Brit Pop influence on these new songs – 90s revival anyone? However, they were far from bad songs, and Peace are a group that remind me of bands of old, a group of akward, slacker, tech-heads staying inside to make music, and then donning a leather jacket and using their music to become cool. They are also a group that I trust to make the right call with their album, even if they eschewed their known, respected hits for it, I do believe the songs replacing them will be just as good. Once they’d gotten these album tracks out of the way, though, the show really started to kick off. A launch into epic fan-favourite ‘1998’ (only playable thanks to Miles Kane’s illness) brought out the moshing, the dancing and the jumping. They then romped through ‘Wraith’, ‘California Daze’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’, a group of quality songs, all of which were played with fierce energy and a responsive crowd. A tactical bit of mosh-jumping posited co-writer Billy, friend Fahad, and me right on the second row in time to gather our breath for Palma Violets to come on next.

chilli-jesson-and-sam-fryer-of-palma-violets-8735

When Palma Violets did come on, they had their own special walk-on music, the only band of the night to do so (it sounded like an old punk single, probably The Clash or The Damned), and this activated the cynic in me. Palma’s are built up, mainly by the NME as the ‘Best British Guitar Band In Years’ and they do put on a hell of a show. But here’s my main problem with them: they only have one cracking song, ‘Best of Friends’, While I do like ‘Tom the Drum’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, they aren’t anywhere near as good. As a live band, Palma Violets are phenomenal, and having Harry Violent join our little crew for a few songs was brilliant. A stagedive, singalong, crazy dancing, and charismatic frontmen were all integral to their show, which went off brilliantly, but I can’t help returning to the fact that they do not have enough great songs. The album tracks they played all had some fantastic moments in each of them, but felt more like rough sketches than crafted pop, which leaves me feeling incredibly negative about how their album will be next monday. I also felt the NME has screwed up by not having Palma’s open, giving the band with more, better, and better known songs, Peace, take the second slot. By all means if you want to see an incredible gig, go see Palma Violets, and the smaller the venue, the better, but they just cannot get away with live power alone. I wish the NME and the sodding British Music Industry had chilled out a bit, let them do the same tour they did, but give them longer and much more guidance when it came to making their debut, rather than rush to make money off the same-old Libertines narrative. Now we will have to have to face a barrage of hype-destroying press in the next few months that will ruin the career of a decent band, that could have become an incredible band, with time and guidance.django

Hmmm, that’s a very depressing paragraph. Sorry. I am a fan of Palma Violets, I feel I should make that very clear, they know how to rock out and have fun on stage like no one else at the moment. but on to the last band of the day, and band that I wasn’t sure what to expect of – Django Django. While I admired their jangly guitar bopping, nothing aside from hit ‘Default’ had impressed me much, especially when at the time it was competing against Alt-J, so I’d never got the album. So when the first notes rang out of an overdriven guitar riff I was a bit shocked and a bit impressed that they had made their sound heavier and work so well in the arena venue. Their light show was also interesting, using shutters and lights to effectively make the large stage seem much less imposing and put them at the centre of the show. But after a bit more listening I realised that I was completely wrong about Django Django. Yes, they had imposed well with overdrive and power but once their sound filled out (which it did magnificently I should add) it became clear that they are not a rock band. In fact with the way each song is centred on the drums and percussion (they are the leaders in modern tambourine skills) they are far better described as a dance band. Suddenly the choice to make them headliners made perfect sense, after the raucous rock’n’roll, how about a proper dance band to bop to without having some cunt without his shirt come and elbow you in the face in your favourite bit of the song. Django Django also took a dance act’s approach to song structure with EDM’s central theme of lots of small changes taking you somewhere around a central groove as well as a concerted effort to merge their tracks like a DJ mix. This worked really well, particularly on the now stunning ‘Default’ whose stammered chorus I cannot remove from my head. (I should add my companions were not as pleased with my co-writer teasingly saying ‘it’s like Alt-J got even more dull’). I would love to see Django Django in a club, and I can’t help feeling they have far more in common with a group like SBTRKT than with their touring pals of Peace and Palma Violets, especially if you compare what I saw last night to SBTRKT’s Reading Festival set, the use of percussion and massive sound in particular. The set closed, with no encore, despite our urge to boogie.

So, duly impressed by Django Django I picked up their record on vinyl on the way out and we left. A very good value for money gig, even if (or especially if) Miles Kane never showed, with each act putting on a great show.

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