July 23, 2004

Athlete "Vehicles & Animals"

The blokes who make up England's Athlete are a melodic lot. They've rightfully wowed the fickle British press, and their album was a deserving chart success. Though Vehicles & Animals was released last year, it's just now seeing a domestic release. It's a pity, because the pop pleasures found on the record. Because England's hype machine hasn't always translated into American success, it's not a real surprise that a young band like Athlete has to wait a year before being released--if they get an American release at all. It doesn't seem right that we are denied such a great band, but such is the nature of this music business we live in. (Personally, I blame bands like Sleeper, Ash, Supergrass and Gene--given much hype but ultimately failing to deliver on big-budget promises.)

Sadly, it's a Coldplay world, and Athlete has the potential of getting lost and lumped into the imitators bin. That's a shame, really, because Vehicles & Animals is a really lovely album, with engaging lyrics and the one thing that seems to be extinct: melody. Lead singer Joel Pott has a voice that's quite English yet most enjoyable; laidback and casual yet still quite literate. True, their style is a bit Britpop, but Athlete's sound never sinks to the point of being retro or mere imitation, but they don't really have much in common with Travis, Coldplay or Muse, because they're fitter, happier and well-adjusted with life. Nope you don't need no Prozac to listen to Athlete. It's not a real surprise that "Westside" and "You Got The Style" were successful singles; both songs have killer melodies that are tuneful and lush and simply hummable.

It's to Athlete's benefit that Vehicles & Animals is more than just a few singles with lesser material. From the gentle shuffle of "El Savador" and "Out of Nowhere" to the quiet and quite mellow "Beautiful" and "You Know," Athlete make smooth, thoughtful music that's perfect for both a sunny and cool clear-blue autumn morning or a rainy Thursday afternoon. If every song sounds familiar, it's because Athlete has a universal pop style that translates to simple aural enjoyment. Vehicles & Animals is a wonderful little debut record by a very special little band, and if this album's any indication, then they've got a great future ahead of them.

--Joseph Kyle

Artist Website: http://www.athlete.mu
Label Website: http://www.astralwerks.com

No comments: