The love expressed on this album is not just this year's; it's a daily, toilet...
Lucy Davies 2003
Athlete have come of age on Tourist. Gone are the lazy laid back beats that pervaded Vehicles& Animals, "El Salvador", "Shake Those Windows" and"You've Got The Style". Also absent is the dizzy persona trying to suss out what life's all about.
They've developed on this, their second album, but there's an overriding sense of melancholia, so much so that initially the album proves quite difficult to listen to. "Wires", the first single, is about singer Joel Pott's recollection of his newborn daughter being rushed into intensive care. Unlikely indie song material indeed, but the beautiful poetry combined with a contagious catchiness has got everyone singing under their breath.
The unassuming voice of Pott slurping up to each note can sometimes get a bit too much, like talking to someone with low self-esteem, but when he sings on "Trading Air": "Someone better help me disarm myself, I don't want no-one else, All I want is you", I kind of think he means it. The love expressed on this album is not just this year's; it's a daily, toilet cleaning, baby sick wiping endurance type love.
The band are clearly trying out new ideas on this record but the splicing of a gospel choir onto the second half of "If I Found Out" is somewhat incongruous. It just jars: indie bands and gospel choirs don't go, as the gospel choir invariably makes the band look a bit weedy in comparison. "Ooh you gotta have soul" could have been tacked onto any of the songs, and makes you want to grab some Southern fried chicken.
Final track "I Love" combines the best components of new and old style Athlete: a tiny acoustic guitar, in a shimmering sampled background, with Joel giving a perfect sense of wellbeing in loving everybody here. Then a laidback beat cuts through from the old days, the upwards lilt returns into Joel's voice and coolcasio beats come in.
Ultimately, the songs here are intelligent, relating more specific personal experiences yet crediting the audience with the ability to understand them, something that marks them out from their less risky contemporaries. A nice evolution.