Air Traffic's main songwriter and singer, Chris Wall, had said about his native town, Bournemouth, "There are no music venues and absolutely no pressure to sound like anybody else, so you have the potential to develop your own style." As a kid, he preferred to hang out on the beach and didn't buy much music. Perhaps he was referring to the sort of music venues that a band like Air Traffic could play in, and if he thought that Air Traffic's sound was unique, he obviously hadn't been listening to Coldplay when he wrote "Your Fractured Life," "Time Goes By," and their second chart single, "Shooting Star" (which charts the band's rapid ascent to mainstream acceptance), with their piano introductions and off-the-beat guitar and thrashing drums that enter just as one is lulled into thinking the songs are going to be ballads. And when listening to "I Can't Understand," with its rhythmic piano chords and falsetto singing, one is reminded of Keane. With its upturned chair pulled over by wires and a messy workbench, the cover art would have you believe the band is led by chaos and disorder, and the musical styles on the album do range from "Get in Line" and their debut chart hit, "Charlotte," which begins with guitar chords reminiscent of power pop of the mid-'70s, to "No More Running Away," a track about the band's self-discovery with an insistent drumbeat throughout, and the fun indie anthems "Never Even Told Me Her Name" and "Just Abuse Me," with mellow piano openings until the guitar crashes in once again. Another track that brings to mind the vocals of Chris Martin is "Empty Space," a poignant ballad written after Chris Wall's friend was killed in a car crash in Canada, with Wall moving effortlessly to a falsetto to heighten the sense of his emotional loss following that incident. Although Fractured Life got off to a considerably slower start in the charts than the debut albums by Coldplay and Keane, Air Traffic should take heart that it is no bad thing to be spoken about in the same breath as those two giants of the piano-led indie rock genre that proliferated during the middle of the first decade in the 21st century, although indie music is a genre that could hardly be used to describe either Coldplay or Air Traffic, both signed to the major corporation EMI.
AllMusic Review by Sharon Mawer