Saturday, January 07, 2006

Number 37: Athlete

You Got The Style (Parlophone CDATH002)
Chart debut: 29th June 2002

Writers: Athlete

Although my aim here is to concentrate on relatively less-known tracks (you don't need me to tell you about 'Good Vibrations') this one is a slight expection as it's arguably the most famous track from the Vehicles & Animals album, and certainly better known than its chart performance might suggest.
At the time when this originally appeared, though, I had no particular expectations for it, and I don't imagine many other people did either. The band had created a bit of a buzz with their debut EP on Parlophone's subsidiary label Regal, but that peaked no higher than 85 so even with a bit of radio play this wasn't an obvious chart hit. It was, however, a brilliant single for the summer, one of the few that really captures the spirit of a British summer - there's an obvious cheeriness about it, in the bouncy chorus especially, but there's also a reminder of the less pleasant side, the stuffiness of hot weather and a nod to the UK race riots in Summer 2001: "I've seen the tension on the high street growing/Seems that you have to be careful who you look at". Yet this social comment is subtle enough not to overshadow the song and this succeeds where a more finger-wagging approach might have failed: after all, it's not all that creative to tell people racism is wrong, but this evokes a wistfulness about how wasteful that sort of tension really is. And they were able to make a video with a cute dancing atom in it too. A masterful piece of writing which got them even more noticed; the name Squeeze was mentioned more than once, although the NME likened it to a Cockney version of Pulp.
The icing on the cake was the packaging - although I've bowed to convention and used the CD catalogue number above, my copy is the rather neat etched 10" vinyl, which more than makes up for the underwhelming B-sides.

Perhaps surprisingly, this breakthrough wasn't instantly followed up, as their next single charted slightly lower. Indeed, none of the singles from that first album breached the Top 30 and even a re-issue of this track in 2003 only got to 42. The album itself did good business though, and they finally had a proper hit with 'Wires' in January 2005. But that's another story.

Official website:
YouTube if you want to Live at T In The Park
Where to get it: On Vehicles & Animals, which is possibly better than the new album.

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