Athlete Carling Academy

The remarkable success of Athlete defies most logics, and this enthusiastically received performance serves only to further confuse the less partisan among us.

If there is anything remarkable about Athlete it is their lack of any notable or discerning features. This is not to confuse them with being terrible: there is a solidity and competent craft about their songs and a sterile, overly-muso approach to their execution.

On occasion, the songs excel. ‘West Side’, ‘El Salvador’ and ‘You Got The Style’ take them away from their vacuous routine of atmospheric build up leading into big chorus, interrupted by a clever musical breakdown. When Athlete do pop, they are intermittently effective.

However, this is music designed to wash over rather than get under the skin. Deconstructing Athlete reveals a wealth of lyrical platitudes and musical cliches that reach a nadir on the awful ‘I Love.’

Its strummed acoustic guitar and bad programming providing the backdrop to a mantra of “I love everybody here.” The subsequent ‘Beautiful’ is a politer, little sister of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and is the closest Athlete come to abrasive.

Similarly bereft of imagination are the literal visual projections which serve only to highlight rather than distract from the lack of dynamism on stage.

The overwhelming sense is that when, and if, Athlete choose to cut loose they could be a force that makes them stand out from many of their equally bland contemporaries. For now though – and with the keyboards located at right angles to each other at the front of the stage – they seem like a throw back to quirky major label pop of the eighties. Step forward the new China Crisis.