Review: Editors Masterfully Blend Rock & Electronic Sides On ‘Violence’
Editors are a unique band that have long balanced two opposing sides that make up their repertoire. In 2005, they launched their career with energetic, guitar-driven music, a band-oriented sound that fit with modern British rock of the time. But after a second album in that same style, Editors were ready to explore new territory. Their third album was a drastic departure from the guitar-rock their fans were used to, instead offering up electronic-styled songs. The band has since released one more record of each genre, but for their sixth album Editors were ready to marry the sounds. Indeed, Violence is a perfect blend of their more rock style (see: The Back Room, An End Has A Start, and The Weight Of Your Love) with their more electronic style (see: In This Light And On This Evening, In Dream).
Violence presents plenty of energy, power, and guitars. On the flip side, it also confidently showcases synths and 1980s-leaning dark pop. But the songs don’t fall into one style or the other; instead, they mix it all together into 11 multi-genre tracks. Nearly all of the songs here combine both sides seamlessly and equally. Fans of Editors’ rock albums may expand their palettes to enjoy the fusions found in Violence; fans of their electronic records may do the same. And for those who love both sides already, Violence is a welcome treat.
In addition to combining genres, Editors also mix retro and modern together on Violence. Many of the songs sound quite current, while others carry an unmistakable 1980s influence. It doesn’t go as far as to sound like an actual ’80s record – except perhaps “Counting Spooks” – but that era’s mark is evident throughout many of the tracks. Somehow, even in fusing genres and eras, Editors have crafted a remarkably cohesive record.
Editors sound bigger on Violence, too. Each song showcases irresistible hooks, and the whole album demands more singing along than any before. It’s an album made for an audience, and one that keeps everyone entranced and involved each minute of the way. The songs are more anthemic and confident, louder and punchier.
By contrast, and in spite of its name, Violence is also a lighter, even happier, record than any Editors have released before. It’s not as heavy as much of their music usually is. Lyrically, the songs do still veer towards the dark and the difficult, but musically, the songs are a bit freer. Perhaps the happiest song here is “Darkness At The Door,” a love letter to all their closest friends. Even the songs that describe relationship problems offer a glimmer of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. As far as Editors albums go, this one is pretty cheery.
Violence offers a lot. It’s eclectic and a perfect marriage of the band’s two sides, as well as the musical eras that have influenced them. It also throws in a lot of new sounds and moods. Perhaps the only roadblock here is that it takes a little time to get used to it. It requires multiple listens and time to grow into its own. But if you give it that time, Violence is an album that truly improves with each listen. It’s a superb addition to Editors’ catalogue, and one that may either pave the way for future music, or close a chapter before they explore further uncharted territory.
Track by Track
“Cold” – Violence unfolds softly, simple pinging instrumentation forming a backdrop for frontman Tom Smith’s lullaby-like vocals. He croons the chorus, highlighting his lower registers, before an eerie, ghostly vocal motif serves as a transition: The chorus ends with a plea, “don’t you be so cold,” before moving into a jauntier realm. “Cold” becomes dancier and more energetic, with synths and strings adding texture, guitars building it further, and shouts of “hey” punctuating the song. Despite its troubled themes of a distant partner, “Cold” ultimately is a warm, upbeat song and a great way to kick off the album.
“Hallelujah (So Low)” – Last month, “Hallelujah (So Low)” came out as the second single for Violence. Tom wrote the song after visiting refugee camps in northern Greece. Lyrically, the song dives into the perspective of a refugee, ultimately proclaiming their worth. Acoustic guitar and synthy percussion introduce the track, a drum machine accompanying Tom’s vocals. String-sounding synths add texture before it moves into a stunning pre-chorus. Operatic vocals are offset by a spoken refrain of “I got lucky this time in the hunt for atonement.” Then the song dives into its blasting instrumental chorus. “Hallelujah (So Low)” is an intense song that combines Editors’ rock and electronic sensibilities perfectly.
“Violence” – A smooth transition leads us into the album’s title track. “Violence” begins with a bouncing soundscape, Tom painting a dark scene on a late-night train. When he rises into falsetto on “harder” and “wider” in the verses, the dissonant effect moves the song into eerier territory. “Violence” explodes into a big chorus, but as soon fades away with a ghostly vocal descent. The energy pulses throughout the rest of the song, and just when the song seems to come to an end, that energy picks it up and carries it an extra two minutes. It’s a heartbreaking song that describes a strained relationship.
“Darkness At The Door” – After that heavy track, song #4 lightens the mood considerably, despite its title. “Darkness At The Door” starts with a squeaking door before launching into cheerful chords and rapid verses. Keyboardist Elliott Williams takes center stage on the choruses, singing in falsetto as Tom exclaims the title in between lines. This effect emerges again during the bridge, Elliott crooning, “Never lonely in town; darkness at the door to greet me,” while Tom embellishes over the top. “Darkness At The Door” is perhaps the happiest song Editors have ever released, and one that highlights the value in life-long friendships.
“Nothingness” – After “Darkness At The Door” fades away, a pulsing throb pulls us into “Nothingness.” Tom croons about mining for insecurity rather than gold, then laments that “we let it all escape, we let it go.” The song quickly crashes into a dancey chorus with soulful vocals. After another pulsing verse and seismic chorus, the repeated refrain of “tenderness” takes it into an intense direction with screaming guitars before dying down again.
“Magazine” – Drifting seamlessly from “Nothingness,” “Magazine” begins with a ghostly choir singing in tongues. Released as the lead single in January, Tom actually wrote “Magazine” several years ago without finishing it. With its themes of evil people in power, the band felt that now was a great time to revive it. Tom takes on the persona of a politician or rich businessman, snake-like on the verses, then commanding on the choruses. It’s a catchy song, exclamations of “yeah” punctuating his directions to “talk the loudest with a clenched fist.” Each chorus ends with a booming breakdown, while falsetto “ooh”s and that creepy choir add extra layers to the song.
“No Sound But The Wind” – Fans probably recognized this title. Editors wrote “No Sound But The Wind” for their third album, In This Light And On This Evening. The song didn’t make it onto the album, but a demo appeared on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack in 2009. A live recording of the song was then released as a single in 2010, and in 2011, a full-band version of it appeared on Editors’ limited edition boxset, Unedited. In spite of its many releases, “No Sound But The Wind” has never been given the proper album treatment.
On Violence, only piano accompanies Tom as he croons in his rich, low voice on this apocalyptic ballad. The song slowly builds, but never overpowers the voice or scenes the lyrics paint. It plays like a lullaby to his son, but the lyrics also draw from Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, The Road. This new recording of “No Sound But The Wind” does the 10-year-old song justice.
“Counting Spooks” – A smooth transition leads into a Violence highlight, “Counting Spooks.” It starts with cinematic energy, a whooshing sound giving it a stormy atmosphere. Guitars and synths build on top of that, lending it an epic presence. The first verse has a lethargic, hazy vibe, fitting given Tom’s mention of “the lazy way we love.” The song feels anthemic and slightly ’80s for the first three minutes, but after a trick fade-out, it continues full force in the form of a 1980s electro banger. A synth dance beat takes over, topped with repeated cries of “holding it together,” taken from the song’s chorus. Layers of strings fill out the sound elegantly, and make the extra two-minute outro worth every second.
“Belong” – After that ’80s interlude, Violence ends on a spooky, somber note. “Belong” tiptoes in with a dripping sound, forming the percussion of the song. Tom joins this delicate beat with gentle, gloomy vocals that paint a picture of a shabby old mansion housing a lonely woman in a dress. The song grows with subtle elements – first radio static, then eerie strings, and finally ghostly wails – before crashing into a grand chorus. The rest of the song retains this fuller sound, even as it grows scarier and gloomier. Tom says “welcome home” in an unwelcoming tone, while dissonant percussion adds to the sinister mood. Screaming guitars take us to the final crescendo before they distort away and the songs ends with the dripping it started with. It’s the most cinematic song we’ve heard from Editors, and a perfect ending to the album.
“The Pulse” – Physical versions of Violence include two bonus tracks. First up is “The Pulse,” a song first written for their previous album, In Dream. It starts cautiously, a dreamy, almost childlike sound in contrast to the prior track’s spookiness. Tom criticizes how “people embrace the same old things,” claiming it’s better to throw that away and move forward. The pre-chorus rumbles as the song grows to its chorus. “It’s the same idea over and over again / the storm is here,” Tom sings. The song skips a second verse entirely, going right back to the pre-chorus and chorus. Tom’s voice is strained and raspy here, sounding more like Bruce Springsteen than ever before, before slipping into falsetto as the song closes.
“When We Were Angels” – “When We Were Angels” starts with gruff guitars and clapping percussion, an energetic introduction before its slower first verse. A windy sound serves as the backdrop before the guitars return for the chorus. This is perhaps the most old-school indie song on the album, and its energy is infectious. The last bonus track is actually a highlight on the album, and great way to close it.
Highlights on Violence include: “Cold,” “Hallelujah (So Low),” “Counting Spooks,” “Belong,” and “When We Were Angels.”
You can buy Violence on iTunes or stream it on Spotify now.