This was another purchase based on the previous accomplishments of a band. I have been an Athlete fan ever since I heard their first album Vehicles & Animals while I was backpacking around the British Isles. Joel Pott’s immediately recognisable voice has a pleading quality to it that makes me believe he means every word he sings (even if he is a snarky bastard in real life). Their last forgettable album held my attention only briefly, so I was awaiting a return to form. Wrong.
The first song, “Superhuman Touch,” has a Keanean synth quality to it that is impressively worked into Athlete’s trademarked sound (of synth parts similar to the Final Fantasy “Crystal Theme”). It’s an energetic intro to a slow blah album. To be fair, the first three songs are fine. “The Getaway” (despite offering good advice) is likable by the end and “Black Swan Song” is decent. But the fourth track, “Don’t Hold Your Breath”, is not kidding. Everything to come is formulaic…to the average! (High 2.5!) Only “The Unknown” is worth a listen or more.
Athlete is (was?) an excellent band, and I hope that they can someday match the gems from their first two albums. But not this time. The album, like the Barenaked Ladies’ All in Good Time, could adequately provide unobtrusive background music when playing a board game with friends or writing an essay with a glass of Belgian beer, but that’s about it.
Avoid. Unless you really like Athlete and just want to hear their old songs with different lyrics.
Buy/Steal/Youtube: “Superhuman Touch”, “The Getaway”, “Black Swan Song” (or just re-listen to “Wires”), “The Unknown”.
Replace with: Athlete’s Vehicles & Animals (“El Salvador”, “Vehicles & Animals”) and Tourist (“Tourist”, “Trading Air”, “Wires”).
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