Air Traffic – Fractured Life
EMI Records (02/05/08)
From the opening chords of Fractured Life, you’ll find yourself trying to put a finger on where you’ve heard this before.
What is it? Is it The Bends-era Radiohead?
No, that’s not it (but how cool would that be?). You cycle through a couple more bands from the UK, trying to place the voice… Nothing.
Then you focus more on the overall “sound” of Air Traffic, and it hits you. The band is a UK version of The Fray, only more extreme on each end of the sonic spectrum (the rock is harder, the moody stuff is heavier).
After almost a year of availability overseas, Air Traffic’s Fractured Life is finally making a debut stateside. The band’s piano-driven rock, if it can find an immediate audience, is sure to catch on and be a big hit. This album could find quite the little niche into which to settle. It’s not overly garage rock; the piano adds this additional depth to the band’s sound, and their considered peers are bigger hits in their homeland than in North America (then again, that might be a bad precursor).
Opener “Come On” builds slowly, opening like a piano ballad and growing into an anthem by the close (you’ll hear the Radiohead influence in the guitar work). “Charlotte” is a short, little catchy rock song with an infectious chorus. “Never Even Told Me”, “Just Abuse Me” and “I Like That” are carried by Chris Wall on lead vocals, as Wall also tears it up on the piano. And apropos to its title, “Shooting Star” just soars with airy, driving riffs reminiscent of U2 or Coldplay’s finer moments (with some killer soloing mid-way through the song). And the band can slow down and still string together some great music (just listen to “Empty Space” or “No More Running Away”).
The first listen of this album was a tough one to get through, just because I didn’t know what to expect. Once you settle in to the band’s approach and take everything in (as opposed to trying to figure out where the group is coming from), it’s like flipping a switch. Fractured Life is one hell of a rock album, and a fine debut. It’s smart, mournful, fun and catchy—sometimes all at the same time. If the band manages to catch on and take off, it could be huge.