Editors Return With Infectious New Album ‘Violence’

The Editors emerged out of Birmingham, England amid the post-punk revival phenomenon that swept both sides of the Atlantic in the early ‘00s. Each side cultivated especially concentrated fan bases in its own mecca of hipsterdom: Williamsburg in the US, and Shoreditch in the UK. Early critics were quick to write off Editor’s as England’s response to Interpol. Yet, while the latter band has largely held to its tried and tested format, the former has overhauled its sound with every successive release. True to their chosen name, the band members seem to be constantly editing their sound palette — and editing very heavily.

The angular guitar chord-driven sound that characterized the band’s debut was all but shed entirely a few albums ago, although one can still vaguely detect the faint spectre of that record in the energy of the new songs. All of the other genres and stances of creative posturing that the band has flirted with over the years seem to have been funneled into the new record, “Violence,” and then channeled in a new direction. The resulting sound is more focused than those of the last couple releases and, unsurprisingly, a new sound altogether.

Opening track “Cold” sets the theme. The drums nod to the ‘80s, as the Editors have always done, with immodestly reverberating snares and tinny, mechanical high hats. The theatricality that the band adopted with 2007’s “An End Has a Start,” is immediately present and consistent throughout the record. The designedly garish synth riffs and flourishes that characterized the next record are now more tempered, but still plentiful — as are the strings that saturated the successive effort, “The Weight of Your Love.” As always, singer Tom Smith isn’t the least bit shy with his refrains. Over soaring guitars and crashing drums, he repeats his chorus lines with such sustained, unrelenting doggedness that one can’t help but admire his commitment. He is determined to unite the myriad fans that sell out stadiums on each Editors tour in concerted sing-alongs by the end of any given song, and he will not take no for an answer.  

The two singles, “Hallelujah (So Low)” and “Magazine,” are, well, just very good singles. While Editors might not rack up too many points in chin-stroking, warehouse-dwelling critical circles for genius novelty, one can hardly deny that they know how to craft a delicious rock song. “Hallelujah” is catchy from its onset, beginning with no-frills guitar-strumming and a rimshot-driven basic beat that provide just enough momentum for Smith’s verse melody to realize full effect. Synths and choirs join, right on cue, in a bridge that rises on a smooth, linear curve, until the building tension is released in a monster of a distorted riff. The giant eruption of chainsaw and siren guitar sounds makes for an unprecedented heaviness for Editors. This hard rock aesthetic and the frequent, albeit judicious, inclusion of choirs are musical features that set “Violence” apart from previous releases. Also, the new album finds Editors occasionally toying with a new minimalism. Consider the outro of the title track, with its 3-note synth riff seemingly meant to be played gleefully on toy Casio keyboard with asymmetrical haircut. Much of the record finds Editors using as few notes as needed to achieve effect — which is a considerable stylistic departure from their early work

Smith’s melodies are always simple and straightforward, but there is something about the sequence and spacing of his notes, and about the deep, sonorous tone and texture of his voice, that allows him to tap into a certain collective musical consciousness, to the effect that he is able to create songs that register upon first listen as if they are songs that we’ve loved for ages. Take the other single, “Magazine,” for instance. Thirty seconds in, you should be feeling it. Forty-five seconds, and you should really be feeling it. And after a few listens, you’ll simply love it — unless you are one of those few souls whose musical snobbery stemming from distaste for convention has swelled to such proportions that it has estranged you entirely from the rest of us mere mortals.

Editors are a distinctly British band, and its no surprise that they have been nominated before for “Best British Band.” Their sound reads like a “who’s who” in British pop history. You can hear Echo and the Bunnymen, U2 (ok, not exactly British, but pretty damn close), and Coldplay — all simultaneously. And then, there’s that particular morose Manchester band of the ‘80s whose frontman’s legacy is ever-present in Smith’s voice. At any rate, immense popularity in the UK typically mandates considerable popular appeal in the U.S. — and such is the case here. Moreover, Editors have consistently evolved and redefined themselves, far more than any of their American counterparts with whom they shared the spotlight in their halcyon days and the new record continues boldly and effectively in this tradition.

Violence” is available March 9 on Apple Music.