December 13, 2007

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Athlete, Beyond the Neighborhood
Astralwerks Records, Sept. 3
Athlete is the borderline-glitchy big-pop four-piece people think of as too smart for U.S. radio, a sort of UK-branded Goo Goo Dolls to some extent if going by their UK-chart-topping sophomore album Tourist alone. “Airport Disco” is the grabber, one that Alternate Routes must surely be wishing they wrote, with its gentle but whammo hook and faraway synth cheese. There’s quite a lot of faraway-ness here, evidencing a worn-out tour-horse of a band that’s lately spent too much time patiently waiting for plane flights and not enough time suffering for their art — not too many fans of Tourist appear to be too enamored with this one, but maturity can be a puzzling concept to people. Lead singer Joel Pott is an introspective, sensitive one anyway; the Tourist hit that put the band over the top in Britain was “Wires,” about his prematurely born baby’s tribulations in the hospital. If you want a canned description, think Eddie Money trying to learn Figurine a thing or three; Pott’s voice is like Money’s at times and Roger Waters’ at others. A tad too much filler, hand-me-down metaphors and aimless genre wanderings detract, but the good parts are good enough to mop the floor with the albums of their competitors. B+ — E. W. S.