Editors, The Social, Nottingham

If only they'd stuck with Boy Division...
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The Independent Culture

A terrible name, of course. Anyone who finds themselves reeling and punch-drunk from the endless onslaught of indie bands with samey names - The Kills, The Thrills, The Stills, The Stands, The Brakes, The Rakes, The Leaves - can be forgiven for forgetting which one Editors are, exactly (and I, for one, must confess that I've been mixing them up with Engineers for months).

So, an edited history (if you will). Editors are Liam Gallagher/Paul Calf's worst nightmare (the two are indistinguishable but for hair colour), comprising four graduates who first assembled at the University of Stafford. Their individual origins lie as far west as Stroud (Tom Smith, vocals/guitar) and as far east as Ipswich (Ed Lay, drums), but they settled for a base in the middle, relocating to Birmingham (bassist Russell Leetch is a native of Solihull, and their management company is also Brummie-based).

This is presumably why, despite the fact that guitarist Chris Urbanowicz actually hails from Nottingham (making this at least 25 per cent of a hometown gig), they're constantly heckled from certain loudmouthed corners of The Social, with football chants asserting the supremacy of Aston Villa (much to the bemusement of the band, who display no outward signs of giving a flying monkey's).

Having signed a deal with the newly-revived Kitchenware label (the north-east-based Eighties home of Prefab Sprout, The Kane Gang and Fatima Mansions), their debut single "Bullets" sold out within two days (and now fetches 30 quid on eBay), follow-up "Munich" entered the Top 20, and recently-released debut album The Back Room is doing very nicely thank you.

All jolly good, as curricula vitae go. But are they any good? My own position of critical neutrality takes a seismic knock when I'm halfway up the stairs, and I pick up a flyer for The Back Room. I can't help being perturbed when I see the block-capital endorsement "ZANE LOWE'S ALBUM OF THE MONTH" (Lowe being the cannonball-headed goon of TV/radio ubiquity whose interview technique consists of asking Linkin Park how come they rock so much). I'm big enough to admit, however, that there is much to admire about Editors, even if it does mean lining up alongside the self-christened "Zipper".

Singer Smith, who's a dead ringer for lanky comedian and TV presenter Paul Tonkinson, has a touch of Ian Curtis about his voice (one cruel and unfounded rumour says that Editors used to be called Boy Division), his movements (he jerks around and doubles up like a man hit by a police taser, an occupational hazard in certain districts of Brum right now) and even his dress sense (dark, too-tight shirt and skinny-fit, half-mast trousers).

It's one reason why Editors sometimes come over as a less suave Interpol transplanted from Manhattan to the Midlands. (Unlike their equally Joy Div-influenced New York counterparts, Editors are not pin-up material, and audaciously flout time-honoured rock'n'roll protocol by hiding the prettiest member behind the drumkit).

They're not a super-slick outfit yet, and tonight's show has a slightly ad hoc aspect to it, with the quartet frantically consulting each other between every song to decide which one to play next. "There's no set list!", Smith hisses to his tour manager in a stage-whisper, who shrugs "Yeah, we were eating..." from the wings (although, judging by Smith's cranefly frame, he didn't have much).

Urbanowicz, his capo clamped tight onto his fretboard, is fond of those stratospheric, monophonic motifs associated nowadays with The Departure, but more famously with U2. In their more elegiac moments they're credible Coldplay (which may explain how this somewhat awkward, angular, mildly arty band found themselves so high in the charts). But don't hold either comparison against them.

Editors' saving grace is the manic energy with which Smith surges into every song, like he's offering it outside for a fight. Its violence is such that he somehow plays upcoming single "Blood" ("Blood runs through your veins/ That's where the similarity ends..."; this is not a love song) with no fewer than two of his six strings broken.

I'll take that happily. Whatever the Zipper says.

s.price@independent.co.uk

The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent (01782 214991), tonight; Cockpit, Leeds (0113 244 3446), Wed; King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow (0141 221 5279), Fri; Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh (0131 220 6176), Sat; Night & Day Cafe, Manchester (0161 236 4597), 7 Aug

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