CD PARLOPHONE, 5822912, 12 Track
It's a shame that Britpop brings up memories of dull guitar-rock traditionalists stuck in thrall to the spirit of the 60s, because it's very tempting to dub Athlete's debut album, Vehicles and Animals
, a minor British pop classic. The work of an East London quartet with a wry observational eye and a sound planted somewhere between Squeeze
from the time of Modern Life Is Rubbish
, Vehicles and Animals
is a success of subtle experimentalism, box-twiddling electronic trickery and brightly optimistic pop nous. "You Got the Style" tackles racial unrest in multicultural London with a sunbeam of pure positivity, frontman Joel Pott offering "We should be laughing about it / Making the most of the true British climate" as Tim Wanstall's synth-lines bounce like stray beach balls.
Sure, Athlete specialise in big, neon sing-along choruses--see the glimmering "El Salvador", the sprawling wonder of "Beautiful"--but their approach is tempered with a very pretty vulnerability. "Westside" opens with a hushed acoustic lead-in where Pott's cracked, fragile vocal shakily tests out the chorus--"Wherever you look you can see / Everybody wants to be part of the rock scene"--before the song explodes into life. It's the sort of sunny disposition that could almost define a new British climate. Looks like it's turned out nice again. --Louis Pattison