Beyond the Neighborhood has the members of Athlete attempting to change course from their previous record, 2005’s Tourist. Here, the effort to merge Tourist‘s gauzy guitars with the IDM-lite of the band’s 2003 debut, Vehicles & Animals, results in a thoroughly mundane dunk-tank that is further undermined by the highfalutin save-the-planet inspiration behind the songwriting.
Mired in the generic neo-new-wave and self-consciously emotive yawn of contemporary fashion indie rock, Athlete’s unimaginative music matches up nicely with the shallow lyrics. The first single, “Hurricane,” is based in the outrage frontman Joel Pott felt after reading about the increase in hurricanes hitting U.S. shores. “We’re not giving up the coastline so easily,” Pott avows, a noble sentiment from a U.K. resident.
Airy ballad “Best Not to Think About It” was inspired by the iconic September 11 photograph that’s become known as the “Falling Man.” As with most of his lyrics, this striking imagery leads Pott into rote eyes-closed, make-out-with-me wavering: “I might just fall into another realm/ And make a new home there with you.”
Other songs are inspired by an Israeli soldier as portrayed in the film Munich and a short story Pott read about nature becoming disassociated from its essence. It’s a testament to the band members’ pretension and naivety that they bother to record such artificial and soulless music based on such heavy themes. Teenage girls may swoon; for all others, nothing to hear here.