Monday, 1 August 2005

Album: Editors - The Back Room

Editors The Back Room

It’s hard for a new band to get a proper hearing. Critics can spend so much time trying to work out who they sound like that they don’t listen to the music itself. In the case of Birmingham’s Editors, comparisons have been made to Joy Division, Interpol and Echo and the Bunnymen. It’s true to say that their sound has echoes of music from early eighties England, but these tags get applied to any band with baritone vocals, strong bass lines and crystalline guitar sounds.

Such comparisons are lazy, unfair, and unimaginative. Why does no one ever reference The Sound, or Comsat Angels? You want an Interpol comparison? Here’s one: "The Back Room is a better debut than Turn On The Bright Lights!" This is an album of thought and depth, which can evoke complex emotions and improves with every listen. It’s sad and uplifting at the same time, and has the power to move below the depths, so that the songs and mood continue even when the album’s finished.

Credit for this is due to the simple and direct approach taken by the band and producer Jim Abbiss, whose work is so good you don’t even notice it. The strongest songs aren’t the three singles [Bullets, Munich, and Blood], but those which form the centre of the record. All Sparks has a simple motif that wraps and repeats; the insistent riffs of Chris Urbanowicz’s guitar rising above the backbone of Ed Lay’s thumping toms and Russell Leetch’s bass, which bounces like “cigarettes on the road”. This is followed by wistful Camera, which explains that The Back Room is “where we hide all of our feelings”. There’s nothing to do when love dies “I'll just close my eyes as you walk out”.

Fingers In The Factories is about the only time the restraint is unleashed; the near desperate repetition “Keep with me” hints that these songs will expand explosively in a live context. Conversely, the album closes with the almost stately pace of Distance. This sombre tune is unlike quite the rest of the album and it’ll be interesting to see if they progress in this direction in the future.

The Australian version has two bonus tracks not on the UK release. You Are Fading was one of tracks from rare Bullets debut EP, and the wonderful Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home was produced by members of Elbow, and should have replaced that Someone Says on the main album anyway.

If you’re quick, there is also a limited edition of the album with an extra disc collated from b-sides (Cuttings) which proves that Editors are no “one album wonder”. On Lights, Tom Smith sings “I've got a million things to say…”. Based on the evidence of what they’ve released so far, he may just be right.

Without any doubt one of the albums of the year.

© James McGalliard 2007
A version of this review was published in Inpress, Melbourne in August 2005