The Back Room

Editors:
The Back Room

[Kitchenware; 2005]
Rating: 6.0
The Editors debut is influenced by the same fashionable 1980s English bands heard in scores of recent indie groups, but they've gained measurable success in their native country of England with singles like "Bullets" and "Munich". In modern terms, Editors aren't the conspicuous nostalgia of the Stills, but they don't quite have the jittery bluster of bands like Maxímo Park, lying somewhere in between the two.

The Back Room puts its best foot forward with the first three tracks, played with more than enough verve to compensate for their limited borrowed palette. Vocalist/guitarist Tom Smith sings in a forceful but wavering voice, like Paul Banks on the edge of distraction. On opener "Lights", the guitars move from standard jangle and reverb-heavy single notes into punctuating, echo-laden scrapes, recalling the work of U2's the Edge.

Editors occasionally match a catchy vocal line with an energetic performance, like the speedy picking and memorable vocals in the chorus of "Munich" or the insistent rhythm of "Blood". More often, it's the performance that overshadows the minimal melody. When the tempos slow, the album gets ponderous, and The Back Room puts three melodramatic slow songs smack dab in its center. "Fall" features listless strumming over stark bass and drums, while Smith's drawn out-phrasing leads the band to slow-burning catharsis-- truth be told, Editors sounds more like Interpol than anyone else, and their mockingbird act betrays a lack of confidence needed to pull off their tortured posturing.

Quick tempos return on "Fingers in the Factory", one of the disc's strongest performances, but momentum has been lost and the remaining songs are aimless. "Fingers in the Factory" is most memorable for it's stomping chorus, with voice drums and guitars all hitting the same staccato notes, but the same gimmick falls flat elsewhere. "Bullets" relies on forceful repetition for a hook, belting "you don't need this disease" over and over while the band cranks it up, but the dynamics are lost without a melody.

Editors sound like an earnest rock band who grew up loving the same bands as the current batch of revivalists, but beyond the workmanlike interpretations of their heroes, it's hard to swallow. Editors often imitate bands with dramatic vocalists like Ian Curtis or Ian McCulloch, but the best moments on The Back Room aren't the theatrical ones-- it's when the four of them are playing and discovering their own chemistry.

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- Jason Crock, August 5, 2005