I saw Editors play an outdoor gig on Leeds Millennium Square in May 2006 – a week after my 24th birthday. In support were hometown avant-garde post-hardcore favourites ¡Forward, Russia!, and judging by the sheer number of people wearing monochrome “¡!” T-shirts, it was clear who were the real draw for the event. Indeed, ¡Forward, Russia!’s set was brilliant as they charged through most of the tracks on their debut Give Me a Wall – the songs were intense and energetic and seemed a world-apart from the headliners who felt a little bit like a gloomier version of Coldplay and by the end of the show I was quite bored. The issue was that they seemed to have a formula that worked in terms of song structure and guitar set-up for one song, and then repeated the same formula a dozen or so times.
It struck me as a little odd when I spotted Editors’ debut The Back Room nestled on my CD shelves as I can’t remember purchasing the album at all – or why, spare of a few stand-out singles, I would want to. A quick look over the front cover reveals a small Gift Aid sticker, which can only lead me to conclude that I must have picked this one up cheap from a charity shop, put it on my shelf, and forgot all about it. Let’s see if this is an album that needs further attention, or should be sent back to the charity shop from whence it came.
Album-opener ‘Lights’ opens lightly but builds into a pounding indie track. It’s easily forgettable and takes you on a rather mundane journey. ‘Munich’ is a little more interesting with its killer guitar hook and urgent rhythm it grabs your attention and holds it for a few minutes. The way the intro builds into the verse of this is really nice; the bass is warm and the vocals are deliberate and clear, and as the synth kicks in for the chorus, it sounds massive. ‘Blood’ continues with the same formula as ‘Munich’, though there is a clear nod to Joy Division’s ‘She’s Lost Control’, especially with its high-pitched electronic drum pops, its high-registered, Peter Hook-esque bass playing, and its “I really want to be Ian Curtis” vocals throughout. This isn’t a bad song by any means, it is just incredibly derivative. ‘All Sparks’ is another decent song with a catchy riff and an excellent chorus that is again let down by the fact that it is desperately trying to sound like Joy Division – its rolling drums sound as though they have been lifted straight from Dead Souls. ‘Fingers in the Factories’ is a little more interesting, but it still falls back on the same formula as everything else on the album. ‘Bullets’ verges into the same musical territory of U2’s ‘Beautiful Day’, which gives us a welcome break from the sub-Joy Division meanderings of the other songs. ‘Someone Says’ takes us back onto the steady path of the Editors’ tried and tested formula. This track is almost indistinguishable in terms of feel and structure to tracks like ‘Munich’, ‘Blood’ and ‘All Sparks’. The album closes with ‘Distance’ – this is easily the most interesting track on the album and sees Editors taking influence from Radiohead’s Kid A, with its electronic beats, echoic synths, and vocals which hover majestically over the mix. It ends before it really gets going, but it’s about the only track on the album that is even remotely original.
Taken on its own, this isn’t a bad album – there are some really nice songs on here and some brief flashes of inspired song-writing. But in the wider context of rock history, this album offers us very little of note. What lets it down is its complete lack of originality and a fear of diverging from a tried and tested sound and formula.
I haven’t culled an album for a while, so I feel good to be sending this one on its merry way. I think I might have to go and listen to some ¡Forward, Russia! now.