When putting pen to paper on behalf of Atari Pilots debut album, Navigation of the World by Sound, because it’s a genre I don’t get to explore much, I thought that I should come up with a check list of what makes good pop music. Well any contemporary music really, but this collection of songs is very much heading into those, often too shallow waters. I came up with the three `H’s check list – honesty, humanity and hooks. To me that’s what pop music should be about.
Atari Pilot is the alter ego of Andy Onslow, former front man of The Hour and now, after the best part of a year putting this record together, a man armed with an album that should open a few doors for him. It’s an album built largely on songs that lend themselves to images of crowded, effervescent dance floors plus a few more reflective numbers. It is on these slower, often more musically minimal numbers that the honesty of the album is most obvious. When the lyrics take a more dominant role, such as Love Come to Zero and The Way I Let You Fall, there is an innocence and vulnerability laid bare, which itself also becomes it’s strength. You won’t find that anywhere in the back catalogue of the likes of Cheryl Cole or whichever pop car crash is being touted this week. Intelligence and maturity aren’t the obvious factors in modern chart acts but it is an important ingredient in good pop music, and this is nothing if not good pop music.
The humanity is found in the themes of the album. Apparently in Japanese, Atari means an all encompassing fog and in his own words “in my head it made sense that Atari Pilot symbolised how people are trying to find their way in order to reach a destination” Much of the lyrics on the album deals with the confusion and day to day battle with the physical and emotional side of life, the brokenness and triumph of it all. The summation of these first two factors is delivered on Stay Yourself, a gorgeous plea to remember who it is you really are.
But more than anything it’s the hooks that form the immediate bond with the listener and the album is filled with them. Game Change and Street Fighting are both built on infectious grooves and I predict that you won’t hear a better or more energetic dance floor anthem this, or possibly any other, year than Rip The Floor Up. Pilot Every Moment manages to weave it’s way dynamically through all of the things I have listed as being important to pop music and is one of best adverts for the fact that you can write songs that are at once intelligent and immediate.
The combination of great hooks and an over all feel good factor create and album that is amazingly user friendly and wonderfully listenable. Even on the songs which in lesser hands might be relegated to the sorry status of album filler ballads, there is so much more going on that you come to expect from the genre. The Way I Let You Fall is a brilliant example of this. Even when the lyrics hit a more introspective level, the accompanying melody still manages to wrap the sentiment up in a minimally beautiful and wonderfully memorable musical package. And that’s great pop music. No, that’s just great music.
A while ago when Game Change was unleashed on the public as a teaser for the album to come, I said it was ” a wonderfully accessible, commercially relevant, epic blend of synth washes, driving beats and infectious groove. A pop record that thinks it’s a rock anthem.” That pretty much goes for the album as a whole. That’s brilliant pop music. That’s Atari Pilot