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Reviewed by James B. Eldred
British bands’ seemingly unending desire to emulate their favorite artists of a decade ago isn’t as annoying as American bands’ tendency to do the same (a dozen Radiohead knockoffs are preferable to one Hinder) but it is starting to get old. Take Air Traffic and their debut album Fractured Life, for example, where the young band from Bournemouth hits every prominent style of British rock from the past decade like a round of buckshot flying into a gaggle of geese. They make a few hits in the process, but overall, the end result is messy and overdrawn.
Songs like “I Like That” and “Time Goes By” are tailor-made from the Oasis Correspondence School of Songwriting, and other tunes, like “Shooting Star” and the intro track “Come On,” borrow liberally from early Radiohead, complete with spacey guitar riffs and bellowing vocals from lead singer Chris Wall. The least they could do is crib from other prominent Brit-pop acts. Why no love for Pulp or Blur? That would at least make them sound unique to American audiences who never embraced the lesser-known bands of the genre.
The most frustrating thing about Air Traffic’s rampant and unapologetic adoration for the bands they are obviously paying homage is that when they go off of their own, they show real promise of being something truly original and outstanding. In their homeland, the band has enjoyed some level of celebrity thanks to the single “Charlotte” and with one listen of the instantly catchy, hook-filled song, it’s easy to see why: their usually over-evident influences take a back seat to old-school pub-rock and punk rock revival in a fast-paced danceable ode to random drunken boning. The song’s coda of “Your face / My place” is drop-dead sexy and easily the most memorable moment of the album.
Other standout tracks include “Empty Spaces,” a piano ballad more Coldplay than Coldplay’s been in a decade, and “Never Even Told Me Her Name,” a great song that stands in defiance of the mediocrity surrounding it.
When Muse first came on the scene in 1999 with Showbiz, they were dismissed as another Radiohead knockoff – and it was a fair criticism, given the relatively unimaginative nature of that album. However, as the band progressed, they developed their own sound and are now giants of the British recording industry. Right now, Air Traffic are yet another Radiohead/Oasis rip-off band and should be treated as such, but if they ditch their obvious influences and follow the path forged during the few original-sounding tracks on Fractured Life, then they could easily find themselves in their own league instead of dragging their feet in a rapidly dying genre.