red lights


Editors update post-punk textbook

Editors - The Back Room
(Fader Label)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: April 5, 2006

Review by Tony Bonyata

Following the release of their debut full-length effort The Back Room in the U.K. the Birmingham-based quartet Editors have just now released it in the U.S. amid press hype and an aggressive stateside tour.

In the band's press release it states that they don't consider their music rock 'n' roll, but with an album that mines the guitar-driven, shadowy pop from bands such Joy Division and The Smiths, while also interjecting both the early college rock feel of R.E.M. and the new indie sounds of The Doves, these guys should probably just fess up to the fact that are, indeed, rock.

Although many of the songs featured on this eleven-track collection are a bit one-dimensional - hearkening back to the dark, post-punk rock of the late '70s / early '80s, they also, oddly enough, feel undeniably fresh at the same time. Laying down a pounding rhythm, drummer Ed Lay and bassist Russell Leetch anchor Chris Urbanowicz' shards of bright electric guitar on their first single "Bullets," while vocalist Tom Smith adds the acerbic, morbid wit of The Smiths' Morrissey with his line, "you don't need this disease... not right now." And not unlike The Smiths, the Editors also manage to turn their somber sense of self-loathing into something positive with finely crafted, sparkling pop melodies.

With a similar vocal urgency that Michael Stripe possessed in his early days fronting R.E.M. along with the pre-Achtung Baby guitar strains of U2's The Edge, Smith and company open up soundly with the swirling "Lights," before the spirited pop of "Munich" and proud majesty of "All Sparks" sweeps you away. Add in the bright hues and dappled light from Smith and Urbanowicz' complimenting twin guitars along with the addictive, monochromatic vocal drone of Joy Division's Ian Curtis and this album turns out to be as refreshingly modern sounding as it is warmly nostalgic for those pining for their black attire and mascara-laced nightclubbing days.

Despite the fact that Editors are culling their influences from the same pool as so many bands today, with songs that are atmospheric, foreboding and, at times, grand in scope, this group actually stands out among the throngs of shoe-gazing doom-and-gloomers.

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