Designer imitation

Editors at the Paradise, July 30, 2006
By SHARON STEEL  |  July 31, 2006

I was surprised to find myself standing second row at the Paradise last night, sandwiched between two under 18’s who spilled their sodas all over my pants and a group of girls with Irish accents who were engaged in serious eye sex with Tom Smith, Editors’ tanked yet terribly magnetic front man. I delayed while local indie sweethearts the Bon Savants started things off with their shaggy dream pop. As soon as Lake Trout finished a directionless arrangement spanning Godspeed You Black Emperor! instrumental jams and Sebadoh-inspired punk, I pushed through to the center, considering myself lucky to nab such a prime spot. There’s no way I could have managed had everyone not been so distracted. The entire place was hassled-looking: pumped for a headliner a minute from a canned SPIN cover dubbing them the Joy Division for the My Chemical Romance generation.

Savvy UK critics adore comparing Editors to their ready-made short list of influences: Gang of Four, the Chameleons, Echo & the Bunnymen, British Sea Power — even U2, who they sound nothing like. The rest? Definitely. Carbon copies of each; picked apart and sewn together after a bit of trivial tailoring. The Stafford Uni music technology grads are no more distinctive than a fetishized, English version of Interpol copying New Order on a spoonful of cooked speed. That doesn’t change the fact that what they play is already much too big for a small club such as the Paradise. No doubt their mimeographed postpunk is about as fresh as a tray of Shaw’s sushi. And yet Editors are well aware that they can be past expiration date and still come through with the upper hand.

On stage they behave like military generals: already proficient at grabbing an audience by collective popped collar. Then they fling you around with party-prepped mope songs until you’re more keyed up than a couple who just got caught hooking up in the basement. By this point you’re open-mouthed, exhausted, and drooling a little. Sure enough, this is designer imitation perfume. Except nobody smells the difference once it sinks into the skin.

Russell Leetch (bass), Ed Lay (drums), an Chris Urbanowicz (guitar) are the refined background musicians here — serene tastemakers flinging the glitter so that Smith can sparkle in the afterglow. He’s no depressed Ian Curtis, or even a falsetto-cracking, wussy-sensi Chris Martin. Rather, Smith resembles a scrawny Justin Timberlake (pre-“SexyBack,” post-*NSYNC) with a sanded-down tenor barely puckered by his own saliva. I actually saw him spray on a few people up front. Nobody minded; they just pranced under the mist to “Bullets” while the rest of the place flung their arms in the air. Mid-song lurches aside, the only occasion Smith found pause was when he accidentally hit his mouth against the mic, causing him to recoil in a drunk confusion. He recovered quickly. “Oh, of course,” he seemed to be thinking, and then shut his eyes tight for the wailing chorus. “Yes, this is what I’m supposed to do.”

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