The Back Room – Editors
Like, say, jambands in the late 1990s, its increasingly hard to keep track of all the indie bands popping up on the underground rock scene these days. In fact, being a New Yorker with an attentive eye, Ive found that the easiest way to document a bands rise is by paying careful attention to the promotional posters plastered to the construction sites I pass on my way to work everyday. As the seasons change, new faces arrive, grow in size and, one Sunday night without explanation, disappear before I digest my Monday morning coffee.
A few months ago, I passed a poster campaign announcing the US arrival of a British band known as Editors. Twenty years ago they could have been Joy Division and, 20 months ago, they could have been Interpol. I immediately felt their presence; their grim smiles seemed to embody an age-old, British factory sound, which just recently found a captive audience. Soon after, they played Webster Hall and I began to download mp3s. But it took the completion of the groups first full length album, The Back Room, to truly solidify their sound to my American ears.
Since forming in 2002, the Editors — Tom Smith (vocals/guitarist), Chris Urbanowicz (guitar), Russell Leetch (bass) and Ed Lay (drums) — have built a loyal following in Birmingham, through hard nosed touring and a series of fully-realized singles. Its a proven pattern and fitting for a group like Editors: a rock band with a pronounced emphasis on songwriting. Unlike their forefathers Joy Division, however, the Editors are music students who have studied their craft and understand the tools of their trade. You can hear the well-thought spots in The Back Room crevices, which inform the dark spots between Lights chorus as well as the frenzied perfection of Fall.
A strong, dark American debut, The Back Room is defined by Smiths low, baritone voice. At times, he sounds like the Nationals Matt Berninger or Interpols Daniel Kessler.
His voice is strong, but emotionally frail, the sign of a great indie-rock singer.
Similarly, Lays simple, repetitive drum beats also serve as the groups backbone, keeping the Editors simultaneously grounded, flashy and fast. Another standout track is the electronic tinged Blood, which oozes with 21st century rock energy. In short, it’s perfect post-punk: moody, menacing and, most importantly, meticulously designed to sound stripped down.
It has always been a debate as too how far jam-nation should dip its toes into hipster culture. Bands like Wilco and the Flaming Lips have aged into hippie-rock icons, albeit unintentional ones. Similarly, younger bands like My Morning Jacket and the Secret Machines have earned reputations as experimental outfits who fit comfortably on the summer festival circuit. The dark, industrial energy the Editors display on The Back Room is a far cry from even the modern day hippie ethos. Yet, its also the blueprint for a great live show, one of the Editors defining qualities. At times, the interlocking guitars of Bullets and the wall of feedback of Falls feel ready to be opened up and expanded live.
Sometimes, the day after a heavy storm, my walk to work is akin to visiting an advertising battleground, as torn posters hang like ailing victims on firm, wooden walls. Some fall down, others are washed away and replaced by next weeks most anticipated release. But, after listening to The Back Room, I think the Editors posters hold up quite well, despite next Tuesdays impending storm of new releases.