If you haven’t had your ears to the ground or your eyes on the new band radar, there is a chance that Editors, the super-hyped new band from the Midlands, have passed you by. Having met at Stafford University, the four-piece set out as a band in 2003, looking to combine the rock ‘n’ roll edge of The Strokes and the delicate beauty of Elbow. Barely two years later, they have created one of the finest debut records of the year.
However, Editors’ geographical origin and early inspirations offer strangely few clues to the overarching sound of The Back Room. Indeed, my immediate guess would have been New York with a generous helping of Interpol, Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen – bands that lead vocalist, Tom Smith, insists Editors are only just beginning to discover. The Back Room is characterised by thick, prominent basslines, insistent drums, twinkling guitar and a baritone voice – hardly a new idea, but when done right, is also one that never seems to get old.
Editors have got it right every step of the way. Three singles preceded the release of this debut long-player, and prove to be among the album highlights. Bullets’ thumping bass guitar, atmospheric swells and driving urgency set the primer six months ago and Editors dutifully exploded straight into the charts with the dark, danceable, Munich – the sort of which The Walkmen would be jealous. The sparsely arranged Blood, was the last of the pre-release trio, coursing with venomous lyrics (“Blood runs through our veins / That’s where our similarity ends”), and Ed Lay’s powerful drumming. The stage was thus set for the album release.
And it’s an album of consistently high quality from start to finish. Aside from the singles, opening track Lights, the Munich-alike Fingers In The Factories and the vitriolic All Sparks, are all worthy of radio attention. However, the best of The Back Room can be found in Editors’ quieter moments. Camera is “the key to the album” with its sombre tone intensified by Chris Urbanowicz’s gentle treatment of the guitar and Smith’s meditative, echoed vocals. Closing track, Distance is a euphoric finale that reverberates into an elegant end to the album. This more thoughtful, slower-paced approach is probably where Editors’ future lies, especially if they decide to carve out a more unique sound for themselves.
Some have complained that The Back Room lacks lyrical dexterity, and to some extent this is true. At times, Smith is no wordsmith with clumsily teenage blotches like “We’ll look in the back room / where we hide all our feelings” (Camera), and at others utterly incognito: “You burn like you’re bouncing cigarettes on the road” (All Sparks).This is a minor offence though. Given Editors’ youth (they are all only 23) and their ability to forge such stunningly atmospheric music, replete with passion – the occasional lyrical misdemeanour can be both forgiven and forgotten.
So, if you hadn’t heard of Editors – you have now. The next step is to hear them speak for themselves. The Back Room is up there with the best of this year’s debut albums, and that’s no mean feat in 2005.