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4.4 out of 5 stars
34
4.4 out of 5 stars
Beyond the Neighbourhood
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 15 December 2014
Another enjoyable album. Delivery fast & arrived perfectly.
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on 25 October 2007
On first listen, Athlete's third studio album may initially appear a reasonably straight forward continuation of their previous effort, Tourist. But first impressions can often be misleading, and pleasingly, after just a few listens to Beyond The Neighbourhood that old adage proves as true here as ever. Once you've become accustomed to its sound, its structure and its nagging hooks, this is a record that reveals itself to be much more than just a regurgitation of the bands previous platinum selling success.

Although this is not by any means a full return to their belated Brit-pop roots, some of the inspired quirkiness and shape-shifting songs which were the hallmark of 2003's, Vehicles and Animals, but were notably downplayed two years later on the more commercially successful Tourist, have returned here. A fact sure to please the legions of fans won over by the individuality that dripped from the bands debut. The changing structure of many tracks is reminiscent of earlier works and will see you toe-tapping and humming along to the same tune you didn't think much of just twenty seconds earlier. The hands-in-the-air, sing-out-loud choruses of old favourites like El Salvador and Westside may not be immediately apparent, but that is not to say Beyond The Neighbourhood doesn't have it's hooks. First single Hurricane is as upbeat and defiant a track as the Deptford boys have come up with to date and both Tokyo and Second Hand Stores ought to make successful, almost anthemic singles.

Electronic experimentation around an indie framework has always been Athlete's bag and this album is certainly no different. The opening track In Between Two States is an atmospheric lo-fi instrumental Massive Attack would be proud of, and the theme is continued throughout, with varying degrees of success. The Outsiders which Pott cites as "about being English" is blessed with a gorgeous, lolloping soundtrack, unfortunately at odds with it's awkward lyrical content and Flying Over Bus Stops, although a beautiful wave-drenched lullaby is so gentle you'd be forgiven for thinking the CD had stopped and it's rather flailing semi-crescendo finale may lack the oomph to win back your attention.

Worthy of note is the 9/11 inspired Best Not To Think About It for which Pott employs a similar style of songwriting used on Tourist's award winning smash hit, Wires. Telling a very condensed personal story through the eyes of an imagined protagonist he deftly manages to evoke emotion and distaste without overtly making a political statement. The result is a respectful and dignified dirge. Reminiscent of Claptons Tears In Heaven, it's difficult to listen to because of the subject matter rather than the manner in which it is dealt.

On the whole an record more playful and upbeat than Tourist, more grown-up and settled than Vehicles And Animals, with Beyond The Neighbourhood, Athlete have combined the best of both previous albums to create a sound which, whilst instantly recognisable as their own, still manages to be both separate and distinct nonetheless. Although it is by no means flawless, Joel Pott and friends have taken a commendably progressive approach, that has created a third album echoing with depth and which rewards the repeat listener handsomely.

Winston Roache
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on 13 September 2007
I say one small fault but it isn't worthy of deducting any stars. This is an amazing album by a band on top of their game. Quite why there is so much indecision on this album I do not know, what I do know is that with all Athlete albums they tend to be slow burning and perseverance plays a big part in whether you actually are going to like it or not. Believe me if you give it a few listens you will be hooked. It's an immense piece of work that deserves better than some of the nasty reviews posted not only on this page, but also in the "respected" music journals.

I'm not going to take the easy route and just list the songs with a mini review beside each of them. This album isn't that simple. It's an album that needs to be played all the way through to really appreciate just what the band are trying to achieve. Do this and you will be rewarded, it's guaranteed.

In Between 2 States opens the album in relatively low key fashion, mixing experimental bits and pieces with a pleasant melody. It's a taste of what is to follow and leads nicely into Hurricane which to me stands out as the only real single on the whole album. Ash may be swaying towards single releases only, but on the evidence of this album Athlete are going the other way. This isn't the small fault by the way.

Tokyo comes and goes in a upbeat kind of way but it is then the album really takes off with the triple salvo of Airport Disco, It's Not Your Fault and The Outsiders. The Outsiders is an outstanding song, vocally perfect with a gorgeous melody, it is testimony to the final song on the album that The Outsiders only manages to be 2nd best song on the album.

Now here comes the small fault. I just find that the track order falls down somewhat from the stunning end to The Outsiders, the quiet and atmospheric Flying Over Bus Stops and the intro to Second Hand Stores. This isn't to say that Flying Over Bus Stops isn't a good song because it is, but I just feel this part of the album is too quiet. Don't ask me for an alternative track running order because I still haven't worked it out, but its a small fault which detracts from the overall album only sightly.

The good thing is that as soon as Second Hand Stores kicks in the album reaches even greater heights, and the final four songs to me are classic Athlete. Both Second Hand Stores and In The Library are gems, leaving the listener feeling justified for sticking with the album during the quieter moments earlier. These two songs along with Hurricane and Tokyo are as "loud" as the album gets, and I suppose at a push both could be potential singles. Personally Second Hand Stores just pips In The Library but its a close run thing.

And so to the final two songs which in my opinion are two of the three best tracks on the album.

It has been well documented that Best Not To Think About It relates to 9/11 and the band handle an obviously difficult subject with respect. It is a great song, starting very quietly before building up to a emotional chorus. It's not a single, but I don't expect anybody thinks it will be.

And finally we hit the pinnacle, the ace up the sleeve, the reason why everybody should own and cherish a copy of this album. This Is What I Sound Like is the best song Athlete have written, it really is that simple. Thats not doing a dis-service to all the other great tracks on this album and on previous releases, but sometimes you just have to sit back and admire greatness. When I first heard the song I had goosebumps. Even now probably about 20 or 30 times of listening to it I still have goosebumps. Initially I thought the album was going to end with just piano and voice, but I was wrong. The melody in this song is absolutely top notch and the vocals just stunning. How on earth the band are ever going to top this I do not know!!!

An outstanding end to an amazing album which will surely go down as one of the best albums of 2007.

S
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on 26 September 2007
I own both of Athlete's previous two albums and can safely say this one is their best so far.
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on 26 September 2007
The album kicks off (or should I say floats off) with a beautiful instrumental piece, called In Between Two States. This album manages to mix the experimental parts of the first album and on tracks such as Its not your fault and Flying Over Bus Stops the emotion of the second. Definitely feel this is their best album so far, with some great singles such as Hurricane and surely Tokyo which has a great upbeat swagger to it. If the last album was more introspective and melancholy in places, this album is a lot more upbeat and I smile when I hear it.
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on 4 September 2007
Let's start this by getting one thing out of the way- yes, Athlete's debut album 'Vehicals & Animals' sounds like it was done by an almost entirely different band. It was full of quirky pop songs that, back in 2003 when it was released, sounded so amazingly fresh that it deserved to much better (both critically and comercially) than it actually did. Since its release Athlete appear to have changed tact a little bit. "Tourist" was way more mainstream and whilst not a fresh sounding, it was still a good album. It was just different to "Vehicles & Animals".

"Beyond the Neighbourhood" borrows more heavily from "Tourist" than their debut record. However, unlike some of the other reviews here suggest this doesn't mean that 'Beyond the Neighbourhood' is a bad album. In fact, far from it. It's a record that on first listen sounds a bit slight. However, the more you give it a go the more it starts to hang together well. Somehow Athlete pull it off, somewhat against the odds. Take for instance the song The Outsiders. Its chorus is "I'm away with the faries now". Written down on paper it sounds a terrible lyric. However, when sung by Joel Pott it has a strangely captivating quality. You will find yourself singing along with it after a few listens completely forgetting how bad the lyric actually is because somehow it really does work.

The rest of the album is good for similar reasons. "Best Not to Think About it" is a touching take on 9/11. Of course it's no great musical statement that will have you thinking "wow" (none of this record is) but again something about its simplicity works. Too often these days we will only praise records that are big artistic statements- Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible" springs to mind from this year. Yes, there is a time and a place for these types of records but at the same time we should not forget the more accessible albums such as "Beyond the Neighbourhood". You really can listen to this album over and over again (I certainly can't to that with Arcade Fire)

The music press tell you that Athlete aren't cool. They are probably right that "Beyond the Neighbourhood" isn't the best album you will buy this year. However, I already get the feeling that it will be one of my most played CD's over the next few months in much the same way that "Tourist" unexpectedly was. It's far better than all of the bands the detractors compare it to- Keane (real bedwetters), Snow Patrol or even Coldplay. Athlete have far more originality than any of those.

It's hard to put your finger on what makes this a good record. There is no one track that carries it. In fact, listened in isolation some of the songs probably sound lightweight. However, put together this is a very good album. It is greater than the sum of its parts.
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on 3 August 2007
Although this album has yet to be released, I have been lucky enough to listen to an advance copy and have also heard much of the new material performed live.

From the outset, you know this album is going to be different to anything you have come to expect from Athlete. If you think you're going to get another album full of songs like the classic "Wires" and Indie anthem "Vehicles and Animals" you are mistaken.

The band have matured since the release of Tourist, and this clearly shows in the style of the new music. However, that's not to say that they've veered off into a completely new style - far from it. Athlete have built on the solid foundations of their old material to bring a more deeply layered and intricate sound. Joel Pott's voice has new substance to it, and his lyrics definitely draw on more life experiences which have occurred since "Tourist" was written. This is particularly evident in songs such as "Second Hand Stores" which has a beautiful long intro and is full of the kind of piano we loved so much in the Tourist album, "The Outsiders" which has a breathtaking piano-drenched outro redolent of the warm crackle of old vinyl and "Best not to think about", a heart-wrenching ballad about the 9/11 disaster. A special mention also goes to "Flying over bus stops" in which Joel sings with (an unknown) female backing vocalist, much in the style of Damien Rice, to produce a gorgeous mellifluous ballad. Also watch out for the more upbeat Hurricane, the first single released from the album, Tokyo - a fast paced guitar led anthem, and Airport Disco, which features a richer deeper sound and sounds particularly good when heard live, as the bass seems to resonate through everything, with Tim Wanstall's synth notes cutting a fine form over the top.

Carey Willett's backing vocals are more pronounced in this third offering, and the band have also recruited a worthy second guitarist in the shape of Johnny Pilcher, formerly of electro-indie band Weevil, who complements the bands style, both live and recorded.

Bravo to Athlete for starting the album off with an instrumental, a brave and inspired choice.
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VINE VOICEon 23 September 2007
I have the last 2 Athlete albums and really like them and am pleased to say that this one is instantly likable and on first listen every track has really appealed to me. Great songs, nice production - the band continues to move forward. Recommended.
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on 5 April 2010
As with all Athlete albums, this is definitely a good purchase! I am so glad I 'found' this band, their music is versatile, using many different styles, so you rarely have the feeling of deja vu between albums. If i'm being honest, this maybe isn't the best album of the four they have produced but I still wouldn't be without it. Most people I know that have listened to Athletes music have been able to identify with their words, and I feel a sense of 'connection' when I listen to them.
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on 5 August 2007
BTN = Beyond the neighbourhood
V&A = Vehicles and Animals

Back in 2003 Athlete hit the scene with a `V&A;' an album with a great blend of `quirky' pop tunes and loveable charm. In 2005 came `Tourist' which saw a rapid maturation of the band, gone was the pop replaced by immense vocals with soaring melodies - the album was a commercial success but many felt the direction the band had gone was wrong. Two and a half years later, Athlete return with the unusually titled `Beyond the Neighbourhood.' So is it yet another album of ballads for the London band or is it a return to their roots?

The answer to that is it is neither. It seems an album trying to combine its two predecessors and coming out with a new direction. The album is Athlete's darkest effort yet. There are few genuine pop songs on this record but don't be under the impression that this is a `Tourist' mimic far from it, it is more of the next step in growing for the band. If `V&A' was the innocent child and `Tourist' was the emotional teenager, then `BTN' is the philosophical adult!

The album begins with a 'V&A' reminisce intro `In Between Two States' which fades superbly into the first single `Hurricane.' The single is in the `half-light' mould and is combines rousing pop-synths with `whirlwind' lyrics that you'll annoyingly be humming along to wherever you go. This combined with the less spectacular `Tokyo' represent the two real grown-up pop songs on the album; the presence of these seems to spoil the more relaxed and `cool' atmosphere of the album.

What `Tourist' was missing was the unique song structures and unpredictable intro's to the songs that were so enjoyably present on `V&A'. `BTN' tries to correct this in small doses and such are achieved in stand-out track `Second Hand Stores' and the brilliant `the Outsiders.' The latter being a `The Doors-esque' tribute with an eerie-tinge to the vocals. `Second Hand Stores' is 5 minutes and 13 seconds of sheer genius, starting with a creepy crescendo intro and then the vocals just hit in out of nowhere (you see what I did there) the song speeds and slows down till it reaches its climax with the lyrics "Slow it down, it's way too fast." This is Athlete at their best.

Vocal variation is evident in this album as well unlike its predecessor. The loveable shouting we saw on `V&A' does not make a return as Athlete are too grown up for that, but the closest thing to it is evident on `It's not your Fault' where the whole gang join in to sing "oh my god, what the hell just happened here" a beautiful moment on the album. Joel Potts also manages to flex his vocal muscles more on this album than any other Athlete album.

The main downer in `BTN' is it contains moments of sheer unique brilliance combined with moments of borrowed ideas. `Best not to think about it' although is pretty good is clearly taken from Silver Sun Pickups. `Flying over Bus stops' is Snow Patrol's - `The Finish Line' re-worked and not to well at that. `This is what I sound like is a 'loveable' but just that.

There is nothing weak on `BTN'. It plumps its predecessor in terms of quality and imagination and will propel the band towards the top of the pyramid of UK bands. `BTN' is not a unique album by any means like `V&A' but this was never going to be an album of a return to that sound. The Athlete of today have produced a great piece of work.
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