Release Date: Apr 26, 2011
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
"It comes like a punch in the gut," sings Mikel Jollett on the title track of his band's second album. It's a fair description of ATE's approach, which up-ramps utilitarian folk rock into anthems that address serious topics like hollow relationships and the road to world peace. You root for the good intentions and enjoy the glints of sunlight from singer/viola player Anna Bulbrook.
Coping with the loss of a loved one isn't easy at the best of times, so when Mikel Jollett, the main singer and songwriter behind The Airborne Toxic Event recently revealed to DiS that four members of his family had passed away in the space of a year, one can barely comprehend the level of grief that must have consumed him. That All At Once emerged out of such a devastating period in Jollett's life serves as a testament to its creators. In many ways a concept record borne out of the effects felt dealing with sudden change, it also coincided with a conscientiously productive period in which almost 40 songs were scrapped.
A band that gets its name from a catalyzing section of Don DeLillo’s postmodern masterpiece White Noise is going to be saddled with intellectual expectations. In the case of The Airborne Toxic Event, the band doesn’t simply seem aware of this, but it’s as though they’re inviting literary analysis. Which shouldn’t be a surprise for an album scribed by a novelist and published author (Mikeel Jollett) who uses music as a way to tell a story as much as he uses it as a way to move a crowd.
Like the man who wrote the novel that inspired their name, the Airborne Toxic Event can seem unforgivably pretentious to some and profoundly poetic to others. Also like Don DeLillo, singer/lyricist Mikel Jollett and his bandmates definitely consider themselves to be enlightened guardians of a steely-eyed emotional truth of the life-altering kind. For them, there is no repression, compromise, or disguise.
Leaping from an indie to a major for their sophomore effort 2011’s All at Once, Airborne Toxic Event takes advantage of being in the big leagues, getting the full effect of hiring a name producer in Dave Sardy. Together, Sardy and ATE clean and streamline the group’s stylishly romantic, affectedly literary, neo-alt-rock, toning down the pretension, ratcheting up the skyscraping atmosphere, and honing the hooks. It’s a record made for the night, but not darkened corners; it’s smeared with streaks of neon, faded stars, and omnipresent street lights, all conjuring the affected glamour of a night that never ends.
The Airborne Toxic Event's 2009 debut pitched itself perfectly between Bright Eyes, the Killers and the Strokes. This time, they've muscled up, nodded to the blue collar and emerged somewhere between Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Pogues. Frontman Mikel Jollett is as adept at songwriting as guiding his band through such changes: All At Once and Numb are instant, stadium-size anthems, and when the band sound as if they're trying to cover too many bases at once, Jollett's enthusiasm for a killer chorus and a good, dramatic yarn sees him home.
Shocker! The long-awaited (it says here) follow-up to a sublimely average debut is another half-arsed muppet show executed with the charisma of a terminally ill sloth. Singer Mikel groans and splutters like a man performing something my – ahem – mate’s last girlfriend dubbed ‘thirsty dog cunnilingus’.Then again, this lot probably can’t be bothered to engage in that practice, either. Don’t just take our word for it – go download ‘[b]Numb[/b]’, indie-rock stadium baiting so deeply uninspiring you would need to send a SWAT team down to Ineptitude just to drag it within sniping range of Decent Music.
A record of big sounds, bigger themes and enormous ambitions. Mark Beaumont 2011 LA’s premium sound sculptors The Airborne Toxic Event are professors of building an epic noise from a whisper to a roar, without the need for a chorus. Having had an immense home-grown US hit with 2008’s Sometime Around Midnight, and their second album All at Once introduces itself as a masterclass.