Surely, the pressing philosophical quandary of our time is whether it's OK for a modern rock singer to sound like Ian Curtis. Editors frontman Tom Smith performs his answer in the affirmative, using that sooty, shuddering, we're-all-fooked-now tenor of his. Consequently, this dark-souled, dark-clothed English quartet was skewered in some circles for hewing too closely to Joy Division (and Echo & the Bunnymen) on their natty 2005 debut, The Back Room — even though Editors added a dash of disco to temper the stylish nihilism.
Smith hasn't altered his approach on follow-up An End Has a Start, but the disc also nods towards early-'90s, pre-Oasis Brit-rock; specifically finding a midpoint between Inspiral Carpets and New Fast Automatic Daffodils. Here rhythms skitter and throb with fashionable, danceable urgency. Bits of stately piano nestle inside layers of soaring guitars. Melodies coalesce into mini epics that scale mountains of melodrama and catharsis. It's all perfectly agreeable, sometimes quite affecting, and Smith's vocals don't lack for passion. But it's tough not to wince when he delivers lines like "If I lay face-down on the ground/ Would you walk all over me?" or drops such aphorisms as "In the end, all you can hope for/ Is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through." Another Ian Curtis we can hang with, but the last thing we need is another Chris Martin.