Athlete - Manchester Academy 2 - 22.10.02

Athlete are a pop group. Not in the S Club Juniors or H & Claire sense of the word, but still a pop group all the same. In fact they're the sort of pop group you always wished for and more. And the very fact they are a pop group rather than a Rock band is a statement of intent in these times where were desperately trying to rediscover our history through a few half hearted garage arses masquerading as superstars.

Of course the biggest decision over your favourite pop group is whose name to write across your pencil case. Frontman Joel is the obvious choice looking a little like Chris Martin from Coldplay. Carey is the dark horse of the group providing the deep bass rumblings. Steve provided the beats and looks like Keith from The Office but in a friendly uncle kind of way. And our personal favourite of the group is none other than keyboard player and the last person to join the Athlete team, Tim - rubber faced like Jim Carey and a younger stunt double for Ian Hislop. He's the star of the live shows with his facial contortions and in the studio he's the genius who turns Joel's acoustic folk songs into the fully fledged beefed up alternative pop songs they are today.

"Beautiful" with the Stevie Wonder funk of the middle 8, "You Got The Style" with the trademark lairy beered up chorus and the sweet singalong of "Dungeoness". Athlete set out to make great pop music on their own terms and if that means ripping up the rule book then that's fine. Misleading people with their minimalistic intro's they simply prey of your own naivety before winning you over with the hook just as your contemplating walking. While most pop groups shoot their loads in the first 8 bars, Athlete tease us ever so gently holding back with thoughts of Christine Hamilton, before taking us for a rough ride down the final straight like all popstars should. Christine Aguilera may claim to be "Dirty", but Athlete are the most perversely enjoyable pop group of the new millennium!!!

Alex McCann

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