A band you want to like, but based on this sketchy offering it's hard to see the point.
Keira Burgess 2009
They spent 2008 as the darlings of American chat show culture, and now Airborne Toxic Event are launching their soul-bearing pop at the UK. With a debut so definitively a homage to Britpop, that could prove akin to selling ice to the proverbial Eskimo.
Having served his own time as a member of the music journalism fraternity, frontman Mikel Jollett will no doubt be all too familiar with that curse of the fledgling band: the simultaneous praise and condemnation of comparison.
Choosing to release the album's most string-heavy track as the debut single has done nothing to deter comparisons with Montreal's Arcade Fire: controversy flared in TATE's native America when one critic panned the album and declared Sometime Around Midnight a carbon copy of Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels). The singles' similarity is evident and undeniable, but untypical of the tone of the tracklist as a whole.
The epic orchestration and poetic lyricism we'd been lead to expect by numerous plaudits never surface, and instead Jollett presents us with Britpop style tales of relationship woe, delivered vocally with that same forced rasp overused by Razorlight's Johnny Borrell.
There is a certain amount of attempted creativity; Happiness opens with something of the Badalamenti Twin Peaks soundtrack about it, but the originally a capella vocal descends into the predictable, with lines including, "I'm such a bore, I don't do anything anymore." Jollett clearly spent as much time as the rest of us in his teenage bedroom despairing along to Morrissey.
Missy is all country guitar and tinny drum; very pleasant but hopelessly mindful of something written and performed by Friends' brilliantly observed, cliched musician Phoebe Buffay. Sadly, the ad hoc nature of the band's formation runs straight through the heart of the material. "Why not form a band?" Why not, indeed? The album is too much shaped by fandom and too little driven by long-held ideas and embedded passion.
Innocence ends the record with flashes of inspiration: gentle guitar picking and strings grow pacy with a disco bassline. Unfortunately the repetition of lyrics, "oh my God!" here, and throughout the album, is irritating to say the least.
Airborne Toxic Event are a band you want to like, but based on this sketchy offering it's hard to see the point.