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Athlete - Tourist

2010-10-13 20:11

The cover art shows rubber escalator railings, gas pumps, pipes, doors, studio equipment, flowers, a music box, speakers a radio, an aeroplane seat and a whole lot of others things all tied together in a long chain of the foreign and the familiar.

This sculpture reflects their music's tendency to tie things together, some of which may be their own, while others (like an aeroplane seat), are shared by many. This is normal in Rock n Roll. In fact some of the best music will always be made this way. On Athlete's Tourist you'll recognise inescapably strong shades of Coldplay, Blur, Radiohead and a futuristic kind of Floyd. And there's nothing wrong with that. Nobody minds when The White Stripes do their share of borrowing.

Athlete work wonderfully within and established playground of styles, stretching the familiar to yield epic songs driven more by thematic strengths and fine lyrics, than by musical originality.

When almost every pop band writes about romantic love (Steely Dan may turn out to be a major exception when someone finally figures out what the "Rikki Don't Lose that Number" lyrics mean), it's wonderful to find a band that thinks carefully about what they say about it.

Tourist is a kind of concept album, and it tells a story about long distance love. The songs are richly melodic, almost classically orchestrated. Ticking piano chords (Tim Wanstall) and lush guitars (Joel Pot) pick the less obvious but not quite foreign chords. Carey Willets' bass subtly shadows Joel Pott's vocals, completing a mournfully sublime mix that evokes a melodramatic hollowness, and way our hearts reach out across divides of space, and misunderstanding.

At first, the man in the story seems to be trying to heal a broken relationship, and is still coming to terms with who he needs, and wonders if he can make the move towards her "It's all about your cries and kisses / and those first steps that I can't calculate". He describes the moment of leaving "Suitcases down our street / Are rolling once again / I roll away with them" and races towards her at what sounds like an airport, or a hospital perhaps on the first single "Wires": "Running down corridors, through automatic doors / Got to get to you". It seems to be the voice of someone talking to his lover, perhaps in his head.

Pott's vocals go from long, Floydian laments, to lost little boy confession that tackles the complex intersections of tenderness, ego, and need in lyrics as poetic as they are simple to understand. "You are first on my list / when everything around is gone I know". Although the mood is heartbroken at times, ultimately this is an uplifting, positive story of lasting passion.

- Jean Barker

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
- Lucy Davis for BBC

This album is a significant step forward for the band, exploring new epic rock territory as previously inhabited by Coldplay & recently Keane, & includes the feel-good anthem `Half Light` & hit single `Wires`.
- Fasterlouder for Notlame.com

Unfortunately, too much of Tourist seems like an amalgam of other things, whether it's the Coldplay-ness of their ballads or the distinct Super Furry Animals influence that's been with Athlete all along.
- Johnny Loftus of Allmusic.com

Athlete were never a particularly innovative band, but even Vehicles & Animals's flimsy IDM preferred to Tourist's homophonous gloom. Athlete, you have my deepest condolences.
- Adam Moerder for Pitchfork Media

An album this irrelevant and passionless deserves to fade into oblivion.
- Adrian Begrand for Pop Matters

South London band Athlete's first full-length album Vehicles & Animals was well recieved. But critics' verdicts on Tourist, which drops the Brit Pop sound and takes a more international stadium rock direction, range from "awful" (most) to "awesome" (very few). Album sales tell a different story though. At time of writing (May 23, 2005) Athlete is at No. 5 in the UK top 40 album charts, climbing from 7 the previous week thanks to the wond


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