Review Summary: Inoffensive.Violence
continues the trend of Editors relying a bit too much on electronic touches to get their points across. Sure, synthesizers can be a good way to expand a band’s sound and introduce some variety into the mix. But for a while now, Editors have been sounding a bit more clinical and cold without the presence of much guitar work in the mix. I'd be lying if I said this was a recent development, as 2009’s In this Light and On this Evening
was pretty much a straight dive into the (then) uncharted waters of electronica for the band. The group sounded a lot more naive and inexperienced back then, biting off much more than they could chew of this brand new “evolution” (many would argue on using that word to describe it) in their established style. And in all fairness, now that nine years have passed since their first foray into electronic music, Violence
finds Editors being much more comfortable in this kind of style… but now they're a little too
Comfortable in a “we’re complacent and want to make dull, plodding anthems with no balls”-kinda way. This is meat-and-potatoes electronic alternative rock, and it pulls all the stops without doing much beyond the call of duty. You'll come upon a surprise once in a while, such as the heavy and distorted riffage that fuels the chorus of “Hallelujah (So Low)” or the catchy mid-song tempo shift in the danceable pop number “Counting Spooks.” But those moments are quite rare, usually overwhelmed by the unrelenting tedium. And sadly, it's a tedium that’s immediately set at the beginning by the incredibly boring opener “Cold,” a midtempo slog with a tired beat and unimpressive mid-range vocals with no sense of drama or investment. This is one of those albums that’s better as background music than as something you'd listen to intently, and to be clear, it does work pretty well in that context. The keyboards give the music a lot of atmosphere, as heard in the beautiful piano-led minimalism of “No Sound but the Wind” and the doomy, melancholic tread that marks the first half of “Counting Spooks.” Unfortunately, they also make the music sound very sterile. There’s an odd plasticity that looms over Violence
, as if we’re listening to a new Imagine Dragons or Coldplay album with a few little alterations (granted, it’s not nearly as bad as that new Imagine Dragons album), right down to the vocals taking quite a few cues from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. The title track is probably the worst offender, clearly trying to bring an “anthemic” approach in the chorus with all the “oooo”s and “ahhhh”s while not having anything interesting underneath the surface.
The tragic thing about the album in general is that it was completely salvageable. The electronics are varied and interesting, the vocals aren’t too bad, and there’s a decent amount of catchiness in the melodies. Unfortunately, all we’re left with is something boring, aimless, and completely lacking in impact. Violence
is inoffensive, and that’s its greatest sin. And from an album title so blunt and forceful, it’s sad to hear so little action.