Editors, Astoria, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Editors' sudden leap towards the big league has taken most people by surprise. On the back of one unlikely hit single, the doomily epic "Munich", and a notably intense Top of the Pops performance, their debut album, The Back Room, made the Top 10 and has attracted a bizarre range of fans, from Leeds FC to Michael Jackson.

Those looking for comparisons have cruelly tagged them "Boy Division", charging the singer, Tom Smith, with aping the subterranean vocals and possessed performance style of the late Ian Curtis.

That misses the mark by a long way. Whereas Curtis and the post-punk generation forged their sound from real, grey industrial decay and soul-deep misery, Editors have no traumas they're willing to share. They're not martyrs waiting to happen. They just like the sound of seriousness.

On record, this can verge on the precious. Even their logo looks monolithic, as if sculpted for future stadium pomp. Live, though, they're a different story.

"I've got a million things to say," Smith sings on the opening "Lights", but what those things are is not easy to discern. His lyrics are deliberately obscure and allusive. Rather, the band choose to communicate via sheer power. They have absorbed the post-punk aesthetic, not to make sharp-edged art-pop, as Franz Ferdinand have, but to offer a weight of sound which, on first impact, is almost overwhelming.

Ed Lay's cymbals sound like shattering glass, as Chris Urbanowicz's guitar chimes with depressed grandeur over Russell Leetch's melodic bass. This is just the sonic combination that prevailed in the days of Joy Division, but Editors aren't mere imitators. When they all bear down together, as on "Fall", they seem to channel the ghosts of that time through their own veiled pop sensibility.

Smith's part in making all this accessible is crucial. Thin and neat in crisp black and white clothes, he is no distant lord of doom, but a warm figure. When he dedicates "Let Your Good Heart Lead You Home" to Elbow - their undervalued near-contemporaries - Editors' other lineage becomes clear. They are succeeding now because, like Elbow, they speak to listeners who are too savvy for Coldplay's bland balm, but still want emotional comfort. The chorus of "Munich" - "I have found you" - and the following "Open Your Arms" drive home the point.

This is not music to tear you apart. In fact, a regularity of rhythm and feeling of safeness lacking in their Seventies forebears means the effect is, finally, unthreatening, the earnestness failing to translate into truly transformative rock. The spark that would take them into a wholly different zone isn't present. But when Smith windmills his arm at the end, trying to generate ecstasy, you can see that's where they're aiming for.

Touring to 3 March