A horrible hack


Vehicles & Animals

Year Released: 2003
Format: CD
Label: Parlophone
Reviewed by Mike Whelan on Jun 13, 2007
It’s not often I get albums like this one. There’s none of the usual press release spiel telling me all about the bands’ brand of musical intensity and emotion. Nor is there a ‘helpful’ pamphlet informing the confused listener, in mind-numbing detail, all their oh-so-cool influences and the bands they’ve supposedly toured with (or opened for in Grimsby or somewhere). Instead, it’s just a CD in a brown cardboard case, with song and album titles cut out in A-Team style writing.

But appearances can be deceptive.

‘Vehicles and Animals’ isn’t the sort of music I’d normally give up my valuable time for. A minute into track one and I’m thinking of Beck, not because I’m daydreaming about him but because Athlete sound a lot like him. A few more songs in and more of their influences become clear, smidgens of (gulp) Stereophonics and lashings of Blur, and don’t even get me started on Badly Drawn Boy.

Athlete know that the indie music scene is no place for half measures though. A band can’t get by with just a couple of guitars and drums and this is where the samples and keyboards and occasional crunching guitars come in. They don’t sound like most of the pseudo-indie bands currently peddling their mish-mashed brand of pop music but, instead, like a band who know what sounds good. It’s cheerful music, laid-back, almost occasionally mellow but never in danger of slipping into the background like some flaccid supermarket tune.

Twelve tracks, 12 good songs. It’s an album that demands your attention, tracks like ‘You Got the Style’ and ‘El Salvador’ deserve to be huge, and if they’re not the record buying British public (bless em’) really ought to be locked up. Although the influences are sometimes worn like some loud shirt it never takes anything away from the sound. The power rests in the simplicity of the songs, the pure minimalism of title-track ‘Vehicles and Animals’ makes it sound incredible. Athlete make making music sound so easy – these are songs anyone could come up with and that’s why they’re so good.

The reason why this album is so good is because it isn’t rooted in the scene that’s spawned it. The indie schmindie influences might be there but they’re secondary to the quality. This might not normally be the sort of thing to intrude on my time – but it could well already be one of my albums of the year.

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