Athlete - Manchester Academy 3 - 20.3.03

Athlete are Britain's Best Pop band, that's not even up for debate, but maybe over the past year we've become a little familiar. We've gone past the simply dating stage and now were in each others pockets and what once were individual ticks by each band member now simply go unnoticed. We've become a little blasé over Tim's facial contortions and like his dopelganger Ian Hislop has grown a little tired. So what were left with now at the Athlete shows are simply the songs from "Vehicles & Animals", which admittedly are genius, but faced with a hour long show we need a little more from our favourite popstars.

"Westside", "Beautiful" and "You Got The Style" are all bona fide pop classics, but it's just a pity they're only going to be played to what amounts to a cult audience. "El Salvador" a tale of life in the music industry fairs less well purely because we don't want to hear about the boring mundane aspects of the rock & roll lifestyle. It's exactly the sort of song bands write when they've run out of ideas and is just a step above songs about writing songs. The album tracks vary from "One Million" with it's cheeky synth line and the ode to hip hop which is "Shake Those Windows" to forgettable "New Project" and the title track "Vehicles & Animals". Of course they rescue it all by covering Prince's "Kiss" in a laid back lounge style and backing it up with old skool hip-pop of "Out Of Nowhere".

We've always imagined Athlete in the Stadiums with thousands singing there mockney anthems back to them, so it will be interesting to see if they can regain lost ground when they head back to Manchester for the Move Festival which will see them opening for REM with a potential audience of over 20,000 people.

Alex McCann

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