Monday, 29 April 2013

ATHLETES IN PARIS - ALBUM REVIEW

Athletes In Paris - Head.Bowl.Custard.

Athletes In Paris - Head. Bowl. Custard (The Animal Farm Label)

Release Date: 1st May

When I reviewed the single 'Borrowed Time' by these chaps a while back I thought that would probably be that, as they say. It was a jaunty, well constructed indie-pop song that had a lot going for it but the cheeky North Easterners didn't do anything to suggest that they had a whole album in them. So when their album, 'Head. Bowl. Custard.' landed in my inbox I honestly didn't know what to expect - apart from the fact that it's pretty much one of the worst album titles I've ever come across. What I'm pleased to report is that Athletes In Paris have managed to create the improbable sound of Maximo Park mixed with Wham! There is an impossible amount of sunshine and fun in this music for a band that spends the majority of its time in the grey North East and they should be applauded for that if nothing else. Songs like 'Suzie' and 'Heartbeat' are infectiously upbeat and 'Borrowed Time' sounds as good as ever (possibly even better) in the context of the album. Handclaps aplenty, jangly guitars all over the shop, pumping dance beats and harmonies dripping in an irresistibly regional accent (I'm a sucker for singers with accents) make this a guilty pleasure that I feel guilty for calling a guilty pleasure (do you follow?).

On '24/7 Job' the lads flex their creative muscles and show off their abilities to play with rhythms, toy with harmonies and grapple with more meaty lyrical content. 'All Systems Go' has a clockwork-like rhythm that is hard to resist and 'Echoes Louder Than Voices' shows the band exploring their heavier side - albeit in a slightly Savage Garden kinda way. Let's face it, this is uplifting and shameless pop with indie references but it is expertly crafted and is a million miles better than just about anything else calling itself pop these days. For one thing, every song is original, written by the performers, features no samples and I'd bet you any money that Will.I.Am. hasn't even heard of Athletes In Paris (his loss, not theirs....or ours for that matter). I'm a bit concerned that on 'No Bridge, No Crossing Allowed' there seems to be a drunk saxophonist just dicking around in the background trying to drag the band back in to the 90s, but if Muse can get away with 'Panic Station' then I'll forgive these guys one wig-out per album. Another clue that this is a pop album is that it comes in comfortably under the half hour mark and, as it finishes with the mellowed out 'Just Decline', you get the strong feeling that with a couple of huge singles these guys could be entertaining sun drenched crowds at various summer festivals for some time to come. The other option is that they could start churning out hits for the likes of Olly Murs and Cheryl Cole in their sleep but I think that would be a waste of their talents and would only keep Olly from more pressing matters - like concentrating on the best angle to dip your head to in order to look up and be cute to maximum effect. Athletes In Paris then; poppy, sunny, fun, talented and much, much more than just a bunch of hat racks.

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