Like so many other British rock bands in the late 1990s, South London four-piece Athlete were caught in the slipstream of Oasis. With a bevy of conventional rock songs and gigs in the usual venues, they attracted the attention of a myriad of record company execs. But rather than taking these early indicators of approval as a license to rock out, they chose to reassess their aims and musical tastes. The quirky Vehicles and Animals shows where this led -- to a unique and singular aesthetic vision ?û the proof being that their music has drawn comparisons with so many disparate groups. Pavement and XTC are the easiest reference points, but Athlete could just as easily share a stage with Super Furry Animals, Mercury Rev, the Beta Band or even Gomez. Impressively, singer Joel Pott was even able to chronicle life in a band ("El Salvador") with good humor and not a hint of self-pity. Tourist, their 2005 release, showcased the group's growing confidence with a stripped-down sound relying heavily on Pott's breathy delivery and some epic ballads. The CD earned commercial and critical success and Athlete a not-too-far-from-top-billing on the 2005 European outdoor festival circuit.