“If fortune favors the brave I am as poor as they come.”
So sings Tom Smith, the leader of the Birmingham based Editors. That’s truer than even Smith might possibly understand, as for some reason the Editors have not been given the attention they so richly deserve. The Back Room was issued in the UK in mid-August, with three singles, “Blood,” “Munich” and “Bullets” appearing both before and after. And now, after five months, the US date still seems to be far off in the horizon, despite the leak that the band will play California’s Coachella Festival. Editors have been alternately heralded as the next big thing and dismissed as an Interpol knock-off. So, who to believe?
The Back Room is an unbelievably incredible album from start to finish, and that’s including the “Cuttings” EP tacked on to the special edition version. While similarities exist between Smith and Interpol’s Paul Banks, not to mention the original they’re both indebted to, Ian Curtis, there is warmth to Smith’s vocals, non-existent in the others. Various reports have also compared the band to Echo and the Bunnymen and other like-minded arty post-punk bands and, again, the similarities do exist, but comparisons betray the depth and breadth of this album. Much like Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, nearly every track is worthy of being released as a single, which makes the singles even that more astounding. First single “Bullets” finds Smith manically repeating, “You don’t need this disease” rapid fire (pun intended). “Blood” is one of my personal favorites, with a chorus that is extremely difficult to get out of your head, not that you’d want to. “Blood runs through your veins, that’s where our similarity ends,” is the unlikely catchy line that has Smith sounding a little more like Ian McCulloch than Ian Curtis this time around. “Munich” finds Chris Urbanowicz earning his keep as the lead guitarist, at first doing the simple two stroke notes often found in Interpol and U2 songs, then goes keening during the chorus of “People are fragile things you should know by now, be careful what you put them through.”
“Fall” and “Camera” have some of the best slow and meditative keyboards in urban blight songs since the Cure’s tracks on Disintegration. Opener “Lights” finds Smith at his most passionate, breaking the façade of the stoic monotone he portrays through other tracks. Urbanowicz guitars again resemble some of Edge’s best licks, but tinged with Will Sargent’s dark flourishes. The melody of “All Sparks” sounds like a haunted version of A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran,” and it features Smith at his most Curtis-possessed persona. I feel like I have to clear something up. I am a big fan of Interpol and all of the other bands name-dropped in this review and I don’t find the Editors to be a knock-off, pastiche or homage. If anything, they have taken the best aspects of some of the best bands and combined them all into one potent package.
I can only hope that the reason for the US delay is a massive label bidding war. Anything less would expose the inanity of domestic music executives. Overseas, they seem to get it right, importing some of our greatest newest releases such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wolf Parade, while we get Jamie Cullum. Thanks a lot. But in our age of digital downloads, those who had heard the buzz on Editors might have already gotten a hold of The Back Room, making the domestic release less of a pressing issue. Even so, there are some like myself out there, taking more pleasure in the tactile, wanting to see the album cover art, look at liner notes, and have a bona fide non-degradable copy that will last us for a while. The Editors are the best band to come out of England without a US label, which will hopefully be remedied.
Joy Division- Still
Echo & the Bunnymen- Ocean Rain