An End Has a Start
t what point during their formation did these guys think to themselves, "Editors—now that's a great name for a band"? I mean, they are aware that they’re essentially saying you can't expect original content from them, right? That they take the messy creativity of others and fashion it into something that is accessible and "proper"? Sure, that’s not always such a bad thing for bands to do; it's all about source material, though. On The Back Room, Editors took everything you could learn from the last three years of "angular" "post-punk" and pressurized it down to the jet black diamond "Munich" and a bunch of songs that sounded exactly like it, sparing us the embarrassment of having to ask for a Sponge of the Interpol age. This time around, well…if my editors were sticklers for brevity, they'd end this review after the following: produced by Jackknife Lee.
To his credit, Lee stops short of gorging An End Has A Start with his signature whiz-bang sonic baubles. They'd be out of place, you see, on a record that's so deathly serious that each of its ten songs could be associated with its very own biblical plague. Instead, Lee gets singer Tom Smith to show a newfound softer side. Too bad, then, that he ends up with a weirdly cautious tone, like the Twilight Sad's James Graham if he were shook to death of his own accent.
Oh. And if any of guitarist Chris Urbanowicz's friends are reading this, I strongly suggest getting him an e-bow for Christmas. Usually, such chord-averse playing gets typecast as "inventive," but not when it leans so heavily on windy, single-note tremolo picking. This shrill shredding can turn out a bunch of nice melodies occasionally. But that’s usually about the moment that Smith's I-beam vocal flexibility kicks in and/or the rhythm section kicks out the kind of lockstep march that's in tune with your treadmill pace.
Back to Smith, though. He had the warmth of a drill sergeant on The Back Room: mostly barking things like "you'll speak when you're spoken to" or "blood runs in your veins, that's where our similarities end" as though Joy Division's sole flaw was insufficiently capturing the spirit of its Nazi-era name. So you can imagine such a sharp U-turn in songwriting ends up sounding like the work of someone who was a cum laude graduate of the "Fix You" Night School of Emotional Fascism, where damaged damsels can only be redeemed by ubermensches of empathy like Smith himself.
The lyrics, presumably shouldering the weight of all human suffering ("Escape the Nest," "The Racing Rats" and of course, "Weight of the World") sound like new age-y pick-up lines. Seriously, new party game: Bono or Tom Smith? Here's some to get you started: "Keep a light on those you love/they will leave here when you die"; "Surround your aching heart/full of love"; "Don't drown in your tears, babe/put your heads towards the air." And that's even before Smith declares that "Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors" are "the saddest thing I've ever seen." "Who Do You Gotta Blow To Get On 'Grey's Anatomy'?" was deemed a bit too blunt for a proper working title.
Moreso than any of Editors' easily soluble influences, the show casts a shadow over An End Has a Start. Yes, it's getting as tiresome as invoking "The O.C." a couple of years ago, but it doesn't make it less true; it just happens to be a shorthand for music that tries to convey the sort of emotional tumult that can only be sustained for thirty second montages. On television. With no one speaking over lyrics that manage to somehow be clichéd and meaningless at the same time. Do the 2000's really have to end like this—with Final Straw revealing itself as one of the ten most influential albums of the new century?
Whether or not they're emboldened by Snow Patrol's success (though the sound and theme of "Make This Go On Forever" appears to be a huge influence), Editors have become a different sort of bully, pummeling the listener to the point where they obscure the line between character and caricature, between catharsis and sheer exhaustion. Give J. Mascis credit for prophetically distilling the entirety of An End Has a Start over a decade in advance into a five-second soundbite: Editors feel the pain of everyone and then they feel nothing.