Difficult Second Album Syndrome may be a cliché but it is nonetheless a truly tricky dilemma for any band. When your debut album went platinum, how to follow it up must become even more of a poisoned chalice – should you produce more of the same and hope that your audience haven’t had enough of you yet, or try something different and keep your fingers crossed that it works?
Maybe when most of your act and sound has been lifted wholesale from elsewhere, the choice becomes easier. After all, you can be pretty sure that your audience know exactly what they want and will be perfectly happy to have more of it.
And so it is with An End Has A Start, the second album from Editors. The well-adjusted child of Joy Division and Coldplay, on debut album The Back Room their doom-laded bass hooks and sweeping piano epics appealed equally to the dark heart of black-clad post-punk indie kids and the wallet of Fifty Quid Man, sounding as perfect on the radio as they do in Brixton Academy or the outside expanses of a festival main stage.
It was a winning formula and it would be a crying shame to change it. Be honest: try as you might to be disappointed that Tom Smith and the lads haven’t attempted to do anything new at all, you’re also desperately relieved. Abandoning eyeliner and Anglophilia in favour of Bruce Springsteen might have worked out for The Killers in the end, but wasn’t it a little bit worrying while you ploughed through the 20 listens of Sam’s Town that got you there?
Editors are kinder. They open with Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, already familiar from ubiquitous radio play, before you even take into account that it sounds like pretty much everything you heard on the first album. By the time you’ve passed the title track to reach The Weight Of The World, a superbly haunting musical experience, you can be sure you’re in safe and familiar territory.
Does this make it An End Has A Start as good an album as its predecessor? In some ways, no – The Back Room was a breath of fresh air, a reminder of how good the dark, electro-infused days of the very early Eighties were. Give it a few years and Interpol, Longcut, i LiKE TRAiNs and [insert name of three thousand other Joy Division copyists here] it no longer sounds as fresh as it once did, but it’s no less welcome. The Racing Rats in particular stands out as an anthem in the making, Spiders is a wonderfully creep of a song, and Bones is as promising as a live singalong as any Camera, Blood, Bullets or Munich.
If there’s any one single difference between An End… and The Back Room it’s that the sound is fuller and slicker here, designed to fill the bigger venues they now command. In doing so, and by producing a more polished, more accomplished sheen while The Killers have roughed themselves up and forgotten to shave, the two bands have moved towards a middle ground where they’re virtually indistinguishable. Just listen to When Anger Shows if you don’t believe me.
There are some moments when they try something new. The slow ballad of Push Your Head Towards The Air is tailor-made for the bit in the middle of a storming live show when you need a break from pogo-ing – only its thrashing guitars stop it from being a mobiles-aloft embarrassment and final track Well Worn Hand is so slow and stark, Ian Curtis would be proud of them. The final result will be clutched to the bosom of diehard Editors fans, probably embraced by their casual admirers and can be happily bypassed by anyone who didn’t like them first time round.
All that’s left is to wonder where they’ll go next. Two wonderful albums, yes, there’s no doubt about it. But will we be willing to accept a third?