Athlete – Tourist
Release Date: May 10, 2005
Sure, the Internet has done a lot of good since it’s infantile days in Al Gore’s underground nuclear bunker/programming facility. You know all about the positives, but, other than a rise in icky child porn, the most glaring negative is a loss of originality. Everything has been done before, and now, we can’t deny it. I only have to visit YouTube and search “Lazy Sunday” to prove this point. A kid in South Dakota can no longer claim to be out of the loop. Even with all this regurgitation of ideas, too few are striving for the sweet nectar of creativity. (Thanks for reading, Mr. Ferrell).
Second only to comedy routines, music is becoming increasingly similar. Which brings me (finally) to my point: There is no way Athlete hasn’t heard Coldplay. The piano ballads and painfully soft arena-rock of Athlete is so close to Martin and his band of Free-Trade brethren that I had to see if the groups shared a flat or a recording space or a mother. If Tourist was written in 1999, things would be somewhat different. Although Tourist would never sell 12 million copies, it would at least have a sound to call it’s own.
The lyrics on Tourist are extremely emotional and heartfelt, which only makes the formulaic swelling of guitars and strings all the more pitiful. After the opener, “Chances”, you’ve pretty much heard it all. Soft verses accented by piano eventually lead into large orchestral strings. Joel Pott’s moderately strong baritone fights for control over the cymbal-crazy drums and tries for the upper register too often without success. Even with all this “dynamic” songwriting, it’s hard to stay involved.
Synthesizers play a strong supporting role (Cuba should have had a bigger part) and add enough life to the sad arrangements throughout Tourist. The electronics on “Half Light” and “Twenty Four Hours” are strong enough to make the violins and piano of most songs obsolete. This would greatly increase the novelty of Athlete and possibly create a little brain activity in listeners.
Hints of true talent are frustratingly scattered throughout. The last portion of “Wires” features a strong vocal solo by Potts and movie soundtrack-worthy violin compositions. The lyrics were written after Potts saw his premature-born daughter for the first time. It’s a great track, but it might only seem superior because of the lame gospel choir on the next song (“If I Find Out”). Too few songs on Tourist invoke any of the deep emotions necessary to enjoy this release. A new album in 2007 should have the band finding a stronger, more encompassing sound. Hopefully they've been surfing the web.
Recommended If You Like: Coldplay, Travis, gloom, The Fire Theft, Hugh Grant movies