Athlete - Beyond The Neighbourhood
(Wednesday September 5, 2007 6:33 PM
Released on 03/09/07
Athlete are BACK! Back with a vengeance! Back back back! RETURN OF…ah, no, it's no good. It's about as easy to fake excitement about the third record by the Deptford band as it is to avoid stating the obvious. So, let's just get this out of the way: like nearly all white boys with guitars these days, it sounds like Coldplay. Coldplay with a little less pomp and a bit more circumstance.
The reduced pomp is a good thing, of course. Where Chris Martin's merry men have grown ever likelier to drench their songs in reverb and bluster, Athlete lean towards a slightly subtler, more experimental sound. The self-produced "Beyond The Neighbourhood" balances its meat and veg indie with enough electronic textures and hip hop beats to (sort of) catch the ear. Unfortunately, the same can rarely be said of Joel Potts' melodies, which somehow manage to sound both naggingly familiar and rapidly forgettable.
It's the added circumstance that makes "Beyond The Neighbourhood" a little more interesting. While rivals like Snow Patrol and Aqualung remain mired in relayshunship ishoos, Athlete have a more intelligent perspective. So while lead single "Hurricane" has the same bombastic sound and sensitive/strident vocals that make radio controllers dribble these days, its hints of environmental collapse and its cry of "we're not giving up the coastline so easily" are more provoking.
Then there's the lovely, downbeat "The Outsiders" - by some distance the best tune here, with its jazzy piano figures and dreamy vocal - which ponders an Englishness where we "pick a fight on whomever we like". With its formless dread and lack of easy answers, it wouldn't be hard to imagine Radiohead releasing this. Only occasionally does Potts lyrically mis-step, as on the Cure-nudging "Second Hand Stores" and its sixth-form line "desperate like rainforest trees straining towards broken light".
When Potts does default to love songs the results can be articulate and understated, as on the pretty "Flying Over Bus Stops". But they're just as likely to be as blunderingly obvious as with "In The Library", where all Potts' over-emoting can't disguise the hollow tune beneath. At moments like this Athlete sound completely disposable - not a good idea in a marketplace as glutted as theirs.
by Jaime Gill
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