Around about the mid-noughties the logic in some quarters went like this: Interpol sound like Joy Division and Editors sound like Interpol. The end.
You only needed to listen to any of the three of them to realise that the links were tenuous; Interpol sounded like a chemically altered night out in lower Manhattan with Leonard Cohen and, well, nobody before or since has sounded like Joy Division.
In reality, if Editors had been a pale copy of a copy of a classic band, they wouldn’t have delivered The Back Room, a debut album as monochromatically stark and powerful as anything of the period, and from which the likes of Munich, Blood and All Sparks still ripple with intent. The corollary to that lies in the realisation that if Tom Smith and co. spent the next few years merely rehashing then they’d probably have gone the way of most of their contemporaries, but instead we have Black Gold, a collection which marks fifteen years of success built on their terms.
As well as the hits (Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, An End Has A Start and Bullets are instant routes back to the past and all familiarly great), there’s more new material than is usually deemed required for one of these projects, three songs which run in consciously different directions. Opener Frankenstein, with its polished Moves-Like-Victor electro-funk is consummately executed modernism, while the synth pop of Upside Down hangs surprisingly well on them and the title-track will relieve longer term followers worried that they’ve turned their back on their stock anthemic hollers.
As time goes on this openness to change becomes harder to pursue, but even after six albums the creative well seems far from running dry, and it’s also much to their credit that Magazine – from their last, 2018’s Violence – manages to sound at home amongst some of the weightier heritage it stands alongside.
For all this durability the most affecting mood here is of the sort the veterans aren’t widely recognised for. There’s a mindful richness to, for instance, Ocean Of Night, one which belies the perception of the quintet as angsty power-mongers, while closer No Sound But The Wind and No Harm stretch Smith’s voice both ways, reminding us that it remains the most intuitive and panoramic instrument in Editors’ locker.
The deluxe edition – this being 2019 – features eight acoustically reworked versions of which Fall and Walk The Fleet Road are the highlights, but for a band who’ve always traded in austerity as one of their most pervasive qualities, the whole exercise never really escapes collectors-only territory.
Never as confused about their identity as some of the people around them, Editors have continued to evolve even if only by degree and at a pace which has suited them and their fans.
Black Gold reflects this zest for movement, a journey with it seems no end in sight yet.