Athlete The first time I saw Athlete live (being there to see the support Iain Archer) I was taken aback by the beauty of those moments when the whole band swept in with a melodic swoosh. It happens more than a few times in the Athlete style of writing and every time it hit my heart with a warmth and I had that deep down wonderful feeling that you get when your soul smiles. The swoop and crescendo in their music that causes the soul smiles has had them pigeon holed with Snow Patrol and Coldplay for the longest time and there is no doubt that they are comrades in sound with both those major players. The downside of that is that for some reason the British rock press have taken and irrational lazy dislike of said bands.

I find it infantile and less than intelligent when I hear these bands being called bland and sometimes in the same sentence that Oasis are being recognised as crucial. The Gallagher’s might support Man. City but let us not kid ourselves, when they put two fingers up, at whoever, we should be glad they can count to two and their cheap-pack retreading of Beatles’ riffs, melodies and song titles ran out of intrigue a good decade ago. That neither Gallagher thinks music can change much apart from their bank balances and their opportunity for wild hedonism leaves me preferring to waste little time on such empty pap.

Athlete are a band of deeper motivation and their songs seem to be almost too grounded, sometimes in the mud of life’s weary struggles of family and culture but somehow they always find a refrain that reaches into blue hopeful skies. The title track of Black Swan is a case in point. The dark chime of its guitar riff declares a sadness of mortality’s end result before the hope kicks in:

“Though many battles I have won

I lost too many friends I could count on

And I know theyʼll be the first to welcome me

When I parachute into eternity.”

Belief in spite of the evidence of the real world could be a way to describe the Athlete mission statement. It is never creedal but it is always spiritually bright. Love Come Rescue and The Unknown prove the point. The former with its stripped down guitar arrangement reveals a new intimacy to Athlete’s craft. The latter perhaps indicates that The Killers could be another bunch of companions, not only in sound but particularly in spiritual intention. It is an invitation and encouragement to seek for the mystery in all its brilliance and all its shocks and surprises, knowing that whatever happens...

“Lift your head up

Untie the knot

My little sunshine

Hope is never light-years away.”

This is the strongest set of tunes that Athlete have yet released and my advice is that the deluxe edition is a must buy for the acoustic piano version of the title track and the lovely, original of The Unknown, Ordinary Angel. The full eighteen tracks of this longer version reveals a band with a variety of shades and shapes, who have just released as good an album as any British band will release this year and way, way beyond the feeble ambition of recent Oasis releases!

Full of soul smiles!


Cole Moreton

Hey hey lovely man. Don't know if you know this, but apparently Black Swan Song relates to the true story of a grandfather. Google John Pott and find out more.

Much love

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