So many times a record’s success is a product of the environment in which it’s released.
For example, people were largely looking for something on the lighter side of life by the time (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? came along in 1995. Not that the Gallagher brothers hadn’t already shown their chops on the brilliant debut Definitely Maybe, but the euphoria over Morning Glory, to a large extent, sealed up the vacuum left by the death of Kurt Cobain and the then-headless beast that had become grunge.
And therein lies the point; in 1995, despite its much better older sibling, Morning Glory didn’t sound much like anything Oasis’ contemporaries were producing, and, hence, went mega with its simple song structures, positive lyrics and, well, the combined knuckleheadedness of Liam and Noel. Sure, Blur were there too, but they always served as a counterpoint to Noel’s simple excellence, rather than true competition. Oasis’ apex, of course, would not last – thanks in large part to their refusal to alter the music-by-numbers course Morning Glory mandated for albums to come – yet, the blueprint they set still resonates for bands like Air Traffic.
To be fair, Air Traffic doesn’t sound anything like Oasis. Instead, they sound like many of the bands that have come since Oasis. That’s not exactly a bad thing because the Air Traffic “sound” is undeniably confident. Listening to their debut album Fractured Life, it’s evident they’re very able musicians. They never give you the feeling that they’re phoning it in (Athlete anyone?). The songs find a way into your skull and are hard to get out, especially the dirty, thumping opener “Come On” and the bouncy, jangly “Charlotte” – which, at less than 3 minutes, seems disappointingly incomplete.
In the end, though, all this effort to create what was obviously a well-intentioned stab at variety results in an album that more closely resembles a compilation of pop favorites from the last 7 years. Over the course of the 13 songs that comprise Fractured Life (including the truly brilliant hidden track tucked in on the record’s back end), they toggle between the aforementioned Athlete, Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and Keane on more than a few occasions. Technical proficiency can only go so far if the ideas and song structures sound like carbon-copies of what has already been overdone in other places and other times.