Turn the crank. Out comes Athlete, another band for NME to hyperbolize, another band for Coldplay fans to think they’re so fucking hip for knowing about, another band that should just plain not exist.
The group’s second album, Tourist, begins innocently enough, with the simple piano intro of “Chances” leading vocalist Joel Pott to what we can only expect will be some sort of overly sentimental Keane-ish garbage. That would at least be bearable (okay, let’s just pretend that would be bearable.) Instead, Athlete launches into a plastic-sounding string-and-synth dirge. The drums sound as if they’re being played with clumsy fists instead of sticks (a heavy-handed theme that carries throughout the album), and Pott’s acceptable (at best) croon from the opening moments transforms into the voice of a sappy soundtrack singer as the song builds to a surprise ending that never comes.
It only gets worse. “Tourist” is inoffensive until Pott starts singing, “I just want to be with you, my baby,” over a distorted second line of vocals (hello, Blur) like some white boy who just watched a John Mayer-hosted TV special on the blues. “Street Map” slows down the Gallagher brothers’ phrasing to an interlude-ish lull. And “Modern Mafia” squashes the album’s best head-nodding groove in less than three minutes with its horrific teen-pop chorus.
The London Metropolitan Orchestra plays on a few of the tracks. Yank, yank! If the songs blow, not even Bobby McFerrin beat-boxing while riding a giant turtle can save them. Although that would be pretty sweet. All right, you get McFerrin to do his thing on a turtle, preferably one of the snapping variety, and maybe I’ll listen to such rubbish as the Casio-rock “Half Light“ or the pseudo-anthem “Yesterday Threw Everything At Me.“ It would at least distract me from Athlete’s ham-fisted attempts at being exactly like everything else.
But the turtle has to sing, too. Make it happen, Santa.