In places An End Has A Start is bleakly compelling; nevertheless, great swathes of the record strain towards a pasty arena-rock future.
On The Back Room, Editors’ 2005 debut, frontman Tom Smith sang and danced like a coin-operated Ian Curtis. Against your expectations, he turned hero-worship into a virtue. Flailing about the stage, warbling in a gothic baritone, Smith seized a fistful of new wave clichés by the scruff, making them feel, if not fresh, then at least vital.
Two years later and the Birmingham fourpiece have started to slough off their post-punk skin. An End Has A Start is awash with piano, choral swells and at least one quasi-serious stab at an operatic fade-out. And Smith has a brand new role-model. Gone are the post-punk pratfalls: the voice remains cavernous and trembling, yet now he’s embracing the part of arena balladeer. At times, he could pass for a moderately glummer (but no less earnest) Chris Martin. He’s even cultivated a flouncy rock star haircut.
One thing that hasn’t altered, however, is Chris Urbanowicz’s chiming guitar, a sound so quintessentially ‘80s it might have been sealed in an airless chamber circa Live Aid. There’s a tad more shimmer to Urbanowicz’s playing this time around, but fundamentally his chops are as they ever were.
Clearly, though, Smith is the one pulling all the levers here. On ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’, for instance, he steers Editors towards Coldplay and early U2; ‘Put Your Head Towards The Air’ (the one with the choral outro) strains for Radiohead-style baroque. Presumably this betrays the influence of Snow Patrol producer Garrett “Jackknife” Lee, who presided over An End Has A Start at Grouse Lodge in Westmeath.
Tellingly, Editors function best when harking back to their 2005 selves: the title-track resembles a leaner, angrier Echo And The Bunnymen; surfing a staccato riff. ‘Bones’, the LP’s finest three and a half minutes, could have vaulted from straight from The Back Room.
Naturally, nobody wants to hear a band lingering in the comfort zone. By seeking to ratchet up their commercial appeal, however, Editors have exorcised some of the attributes that made them interesting in the first instance. In places An End Has A Start is bleakly compelling; nevertheless, great swathes of the record strain towards a pasty arena-rock future. Part of you wishes Editors had stayed standing still for a little longer.
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