"Fractured Life" is the well-processed new release from Air Traffic. Anyone who's enjoyed recordings by Coldplay, Keane, or Snow Patrol will like some or all of these songs. The similarities are inescapable. The slow, deliberate, melodramatic piano phrases alternate with crunchy guitars and heavy duty percussion. Then there are the staccato breaks, the circular guitar parts, and vocals that rise from a soft lament to full blast.
Lead singer Chris Wall has an impressive range and force not far from Keane's Tom Chaplin. He very often ends his phrases in falsetto, a la Chris Martin. It'd be more interesting to see him develop his own style. He sings like you'd imagine a male model who pouts in a blue and gray fashion ad would. He comes Cure-ishly close to Hot Hot Heat's Steve Bays, as if no one told him it's odd to imitate anybody unless you're in a tribute band. His piano playing is overdone on a few songs, and together with his vocals on "Just Abuse Me" and "I Like That," approaches a show tune-style camp that somehow takes itself a little too seriously.
"Charlotte," thanks to Tom Fritchard's guitar playing, is the catchiest song on the disc. On "Shooting Star" the guitar's pointillist attack and wall crashing drums create an almost moving experience, if you hadn't already heard it from a dozen other bands. Bass distortion and drums start out "Get in Line," bouncy prep-school gang vocals make the chorus, and Fritchard cuts loose here, too. At the last minute he seems to think it'd be more fun to play in the Libertines.
The lyrics attempt cynical irony, but manage a romanticized version of cynicism. The drums can be too safe at times. What's lacking the most on this is a sense of abandon, spontaneity, and the fresh spark that made Air Traffic's heroes as influential on them as they are.