Birmingham’s moody visionaries captivate the capital at intimate venue
There are many baffling contradictions in the world of music today. Take Arctic Monkeys: a great band with a terrible name. Crazy Frog has a great name but the music’s terrible. The best guitarist in Oasis plays bass. Not least, there’s the fact that a sentient human being with, like, a brain, ears and everything, once thought it would be a good idea to sign Towers Of London. The confusion is endless. But perhaps the weirdest puzzle, and the one that most musicians would love to crack, is how to make epic music that’s also intimate. After all, it’s easy to enthral a pub backroom, but this is the real challenge: to achieve an emotional punch in an arena at a distance of 50 feet, or cause an individual to weep in a 50,000 seater stadium. For a band to cut through the crowds and mean everything, just to you.
Even in the small confines of the Scala, it’s obvious Editors have this rare talent. Tom Smith cradles the microphone on ‘Fall’ as his resonant baritone informs us that “I wanted to see/I wanted to see things for myself”. The effect is staggering: it’s a mixture of heartbreak and tenderness that’s at turns beguiling, intoxicating and soul-pummelling. And were it transplanted to the main stage at Reading, Glastonbury or some future million-capacity stadium on the moon then it would be just as moving.
‘All Sparks’’ needle-sharp guitar stabs prove to be equally inspiring. Tom manhandles his guitar, bringing it up behind his head and then in front of his face, brandishing it like a shield, so that he appears at once confident in his performance and utterly defenceless.
In the last eight months, these songs, these black buds of despair, have blossomed into something of overwhelming beauty. The singles ‘Blood’ and ‘Munich’, which sound like a rave in a mausoleum, compete with the delicate sentiments of the sweeping ‘Open Your Arms’, a song that’s essentially Franz’s ‘40Feet’, but more suicidal by, oh, a razor’s width.
Throughout, Chris Urbanowicz’s guitar riffs twinkle like stars and Ed Lay’s itchy hi-hat rhythms skitter across the skull like disco-dancing millipedes. With ‘Lights’ and ‘Camera’, the most granite of hearts creak and crack under the strain of emotion, in a night that becomes as dark as a holocaust of the heart.
Much has been written of Editors (from Stafford via Translyvania), comparing them to NY glumsters Interpol, but in reality Editors’ moody bloodline runs from the epic ’80s doommongers The Cure or Joy Division, or perhaps most precisely, the neglected early ’90s visionaries Kitchens Of Distinction. In other words, they share a peculiarly British legacy.
Editors display all the attributes of stars to be. They’ve soared above Apartment, The Departure and the rest of their crepuscular brethren who held promise six months ago. Tonight Editors create guiltless music not hamstrung by the suspicious panzer efficiency of U2’s choruses, or the vague emotionality of the soppier parts of Coldplay’s work, while displaying the will to reach similarly epic heights.
In fact, with their collision of delicate introspection and grand sentiments coupled with a staunch refusal to bland-out, it’s as clear as a sign in 20-foot-high letters that a great new band is here. So here’s another contradiction for you: Editors are going to be massive. But as long as they play this well, they will always be ours.