I have to admit, The Editors’ new release is somewhat disappointing to me, but, of course, that is only because I had such high expectations after 2005’s The Back Room. Guitarist Chris Urbanowicz’s playing is still gorgeous, and still “The Edge-esque,” particularly on track # which opens with a chiming riff that echoes the aching beauty and urgent drive of early U2 single “I Will Follow.” The U2 comparisons, which have been frequent and I suppose deserved, do not end with Urbanowicz’s playing, but are also evidenced in singer Tom Smith’s voice which is as moving and powerful as Bono’s, if completely different.
The Back Room was, in my opinion, an instant modern classic, something that was made definitive when I heard the vinyl pressing with bonus track “Release.” This track is by far my favorite song by the band, and actually one of my favorite songs of all-time, with its shimmering light guitar waterfalls cascading amidst a powerful beat and Smith’s emotional and moving delivery. While I had enjoyed The Back Room prior to hearing the song, the album was cemented in my list of favorites with the vinyl version. “Release” is to The Back Room as “Mercy” is to U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: a track which unabashedly deserved to be on the primary version of the album. “Release,” however was at least officially made public on the vinyl version of The Back Room, while, “Mercy,” for whatever reason, was never officially released by U2. This is tremendously unfortunate because it is a brilliant track that has famously been called “a six-and-a-half-minute outpouring of U2 at its most uninhibitedly U2-ish” by Blender and, ultimately, one of my favorite U2 songs. I hope the rumors about it are true and that it will be released on the new album, whenever that finally comes out. I will assume that they must be true, because otherwise it would have made sense for “Mercy” to be included in “The Complete U2” iTunes digital collection with other HTDAAB sessions tracks such as “Native Son” and “Xanax and Wine” (both of which I like more than their official counterparts, “Vertigo” and “Fast Cars”).
An End has a Start, though, is not the instant classic which The Back Room was. While I admit I have not heard the import with bonus tracks (which was a key component in replacing Snow Patrol’s amazing 2004 album Final Straw with their most recent release Eyes Open in my Top 5 favorite albums—import only tracks “Warmer Climate” and “In My Arms” simply completed edging the earlier album into the Top 10), I still highly doubt the two extra tracks would greatly tip my opinion of the album. As a whole, it does surge with many of the great qualities of The Back Room, but does not quite equal that album’s majesty, power, and honest pop sensibility which turned tracks like “Bullets,” “Blood,” and “Munich” into successful radio hits. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a GREAT album, and for any other band, it would be a major accomplishment, but compared to their debut, An End has a Start falls prey to the sophomore slump in terms of what the band could have produced.