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 that shift to a unique and singular aesthetic vision -- the proof being that their music has drawn comparisons to 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, Beta Band or 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.