Editors tack away from the dance and Euro influences of their critically mauled In This Light and on This Evening on The Weight of Your Love, which charts a nervy, more modern indie-rock course. The band has always excelled at creative cribbing, but while their influences still dictate everything from song structure to guitar effects, the references feel less belabored and more fully incorporated.
The droning menace of “Sugar” effectively chains a Muse-like bassline to eerie arena rock, and the propulsive chorus on “A Ton of Love” works well enough on its own terms to stifle any potential arguments about whether the song sounds more like U2 or Echo and the Bunnymen. On opener “The Weight,” Tom Smith sings, “I promised myself/I wouldn’t talk about death/I know I’m getting boring,” a deliberate, slightly tongue-in-cheek attempt to shake the Ian Curtis comparisons and gloom-rock accusations that have plagued Editors for their entire career. And surprisingly, Smith does a fair job of living up to his promise, swapping songs about death, which featured so heavily on An End Has a Start and In This Light and on This Evening, for grandiose love songs and ballads.
Despite a lineup shift and an attempt at a sonic and thematic overhaul, though, the turn is only partially realized. The album’s first misstep is an ’80s pop-style ballad in the form of “What Is This Thing Called Love,” for which Smith exercises a limber but misguided falsetto. On its heels are two more ballads, “Honesty” and “Nothing,” whose equally indulgent cushions of string arrangements refuse the melodies any breathing room. The unfortunate sequencing completely diffuses the building tension of The Weight of Your Love’s first three tracks, causing the album as a whole to lose momentum.
The once-quintessentially British band incorporates elements of what Smith broadly terms “Americana” in the album’s stronger second half, which strips away most of the orchestral excesses, leaving tense drum beats and Smith’s baritone, sounding more urgent and agile than ever before, to take center stage. The Americana additions, which could easily feel as glued-on as the string and brass flourishes of the first half, are grounded in Ed Lay’s driving kick drum and rootsy snare. “Hyena,” their best rock track since “Blood,” employs a feral riff recorded in the same new-wave desert that the Killers occupy, over which Smith howls that “the hunger makes the man.” In the spare closing pair of songs, “The Phone Book” and “Bird of Prey,” for which Editors break out brushes, folk strums, and bleak, whining strings, Smith finally manages to stumble into the kind of emotion he was so obviously swinging for on “What Is This Thing Called Love.” Although The Weight of Your Love doesn’t succeed to the same extent as other, older European rock albums drenched in American influences, it makes for a nicely retooled, if occasionally misguided, formula.