At this point, hearing about another British band that sounds like Gang of Four, Joy Division or Franz Ferdinand makes me want to groan and roll my eyes. All of the never-ending press on bands like Arctic Monkeys and Rakes compel me to get out my copies of Entertainment! and You Could Have it So Much Better so I can tune out the hype. But when it comes to a band that sounds a lot like Joy Division, how come I can't stop listening to Editors?
Despite a number of bands that sound like them, Joy Division has never been, to my knowledge, fully carboned copied. Credit Martin Hannett's mechanical-sounding production, Peter Hook's bass guitar leads, Steven Morris' drum machine-like beats, Bernard Sumner's skeletal, trial-and-error guitar lines and unassuming keyboard lines and Ian Curtis' tense vocals for making Joy Division unique. I have yet to hear another band sound exactly like them, but Editors comes relatively close. But again, why am I listening to something so apparently derivative?
The answer is easy: they have great songs despite all the comparisons. Yes, I can't help but hear "She's Lost Control" when I hear "Blood," "Dead Souls" when I hear "All Sparks" and "Transmission" when I hear "Fingers in Factories," but I think Editors' The Back Room and their b-sides are worth a lot of spins. There is no topping Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures or Closer, but The Back Room is a suprisingly strong effort in these modern post-punk times.
While all of its members add their own strengths, vocalist/guitarist Tom Smith deserves some attention. Compared to Ian Curtis, Smith has much more restraint in his voice and his lyrics aren't all mired in doom and gloom. Lyrics like "If something has to change/then it always does," "All sparks will burn out in the end" and "Blood runs through your veins/that's where our similarity ends" may sound like high school scribblings, but they fit really well with the music.
While I really enjoy Joy Division's music, I find a lot of their material challenging to listen to on a regular basis. I have no problem or feel any challenges with listening to Editors. Maybe this is the exact feeling that record companies want to hear (so they'll sign ten more bands like them), but I can't help it.
Though the band is young, they already have an album's worth of b-sides. Across five singles (and a sixth one forthcoming), I have a hard time finding a royal stinker. Sure, some are demos and remixes, but songs like "Heads in Bags" are great even though they wouldn't fit on The Back Room. Plus, they do a faithful (but cool) cover of Stereolab's "French Disko" on the "Munich" single.
I think the only drawback to these guys is that if you've heard one of their songs, you have a pretty good idea as to what the rest of their material sounds like. I think there's always room for evolution for bands like this, but it's up to the bands to decide if they want to grow out of their boundaries.