1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 35

Tourist, by Athlete
Suggested by Mark Davis

I’m not much of a music historian. There’s so damn much of it.

I do love a music quiz, even if I don’t set the room alight with my knowledge of the extreme minutiae surrounding, I dunno, the session musicians drafted in for Culture Club’s debut album. I’m pretty good at categorising with a broad brush – that’s rock, that’s dance, that’s grunge – but let’s face it, that parlour trick is like pointing at a police car and going “nee-nar, nee-nar.”

With my broad brush, if I were to take a swing at Athlete, I’d label them Millennial Indie British Pop (MIBP). Not Brit Pop, mind; that’s a whole other country house full of wonderwalls. British Pop. Bands like Coldplay, Radiohead, The Verve. Travis, Keane, Elbow. Snow Patrol, Doves, Embrace.

Y’know… all that bollocks.

To me – and here I’m channelling the weary parents of goths, emo kids and metal-heads since time immemorial – it all sounds the same. A soulful guitar, some piano or strings, a high and breathy male vocal complaining about something or other, for three-and-a-half minutes. Song ends, next song. Rinse, repeat,

At least Britpop had a little swagger, an attitude. So much of Millennial Indie British Pop feels funerial. It’s a dirge.

I’ve heard Tourist, by Athlete before. Not the actual songs, mind. I’ve just heard it in Coldplay hits, in The Verve songs, in BBC Glastonbury sets by countless MIBP acts that meld into each other like a massive amorphous Pop Blob, bent on painting the world in a mushroom beige emulsion.

And not only does it sink into the background sound of a thousand other bands, it also fails to distinguish itself from itself. To paraphrase the great Led Zeppelin, the songs remain the same. You could parachute into any point of this album, and it’d take even the most hardcore fan a full minute to find their bearings.

My favourite song on here, for want of a better phrase, is the album’s finale I Love. It feels like the only track that tries to be something different, with a lovely guitar opener that sadly leads into more of the disappointing usual. However, there’s a weird section near the end that’s full of bips and bops and bings, as if half the band are playing the song and half the band are playing Pong.

I’m afraid I can’t go beyond 4/10 for this album. When taken as a whole, it does little to distinguish itself from its peers. I feel I’ve heard it all before, by other bands and singers.

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