It's bold to open any album with a languid, string-laden ballad. But it's even bolder when your band isn't called Coldplay. Athlete does just that with "Chances" on their sophomore record, Tourist. It's the kind of song England has way too many of in 2005, whether you're talking about the Buffseeds or rushes of blood to the head, but here's Athlete offering it anyway. "Wires" pushes the melancholy even further. Joel Pott sings quietly to his sick infant child, and it's moving. But the surging orchestration is so, well, orchestrated that the song becomes a montage of slow-motion dissolves and people hugging meaningfully. "Half Light" imports a few laptop blips from Athlete's previous Vehicles & Animals, but its hopeful, chugging-along chorus dates from Britpop circa 1995. "If I Found Out" is much more promising, using that penchant for epic sweep wisely with an assist from a gospel choir and undeniable positivity like "I thank you for soul." "Yesterday Threw Everything at Me" has a pleasant enough chorus, and "Modern Mafia" works with its late-night shuffle and whirring background electronics. Unfortunately, too much of Tourist seems like an amalgam of other things, whether it's the Coldplay-ness of their ballads or the distinct Super Furry Animals influence that's been with Athlete all along. Its art direction is a winning tribute to the striking cover art of Britpop past. (Pulp's singles come to mind.) But musically, Tourist settles for complacent.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus