The cover of this London quartet's 2003 debut, Vehicles & Animals, depicts a stairway of trash spiraling toward heaven--an apt visual metaphor for the band's colorful sound, which cobbles together elements from American and English alt-rock of the past decade. ("El Salvador," Vehicles' opener, badly lifts a verse from Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" and a chorus from Beck's "Loser.") On Tourist, Athlete's second album, the band sounds more serious, no doubt under the influence of the virus that has every English band these days vying for whatever attention Coldplay fans have left over. Their melodies are more yearning than they used to be, and the guitars strive more obviously for the sort of starry-sky twinkle the Edge has patented. Still, the band's appealing quirkiness manages to poke through a few times: Singer Joel Pott works up a cute, blue-eyed soulfulness over a moderately funky groove in the title track, while the sweetly shambling "If I Found Out" could pass for a Sugar Ray outtake. It's nice enough, but here's hoping the success of Coldplay's X&Y doesn't persuade Athlete to wear their new poker faces permanently.
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