PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 February, 2005, 12:00am




'Epic soft rock' veers towards an oxymoron. There's something about the phrase that doesn't sit right, in the same way as 'giant puppy' or 'tough bunny' don't add up.

British music is exciting again, apparently - and yet there are still about six or seven well-hyped outfits who remain on a mission to recreate Radiohead's seismic 1995 effort, The Bends, 10 years on.

For every zippy, ground-breaking group such as the excellent Future-heads, there's a lumpen, epic soft rock-shaped iceberg floating in between - with Keane and Snow Patrol two of the biggest offenders.

Plodding, melancholic piano, overly ambitious string arrangements and problems that are 'like a sum a mathematician cannot solve' threaten to inform Athlete's world when dreary opener Chances drapes you in its suffocating cardigan.

Things perk up afterwards, though, with the title track, in particular, having a seductive hook, while Modern Mafia could be what arch-ponces Maroon 5 would sound like after three miserable British winters, with it's refreshingly shouty-shouty chorus action.

The Pink Floyd thunder-thighs singers that come out of nowhere on If I Found Out work a treat, too, and demonstrate Athlete as a band prepared to mix it up a bit. If epic soft rock a la Coldplay is your thing, then this presents an opportunity to stretch yourself. If not, you'll be wondering when the ghost of Street Spirit will finally be exorcised and we can all get on with our lives.