The Ataris have just released their brand new album, 'So Long, Astoria'. It’s an amazing record and a great achievement, even for a band that have been consistently brilliant over their 3 previous albums. I really think that it’s the sort of album that anybody could really love, as it is great on so many levels.

The Ataris formed after singer Kris Roe sent a set of demos to Kung Fu records (run by the Vandals), who promptly got in touch to sign him. Kris recorded his first album as a solo artist before getting a band together to tour it. 'Anywhere But Here' is an enjoyable record that shows the promise in Kris’ songwriting, but occasionally slips into derivative punk-pop territory and some of the lyrics betray his age a little. Yet The Ataris were still given the chance to record an EP for NOFX front man Fat Mike’s Fat Wreck Chords. This was a rare honour for an un-established band, and tuned many people on to their immense promise.

Next came 'Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits', a vastly superior record. It is the favourite of many Ataris fans, and is the point where Kris Roe really established his unique lyrical style. The songs are heart felt tales of heartbreak that are never packed full of wordplay, but instead are easy to connect with, yet are never clichéd and always original. Roe always makes sure to drop in a few references to classic movies and books. He perfected this approach on 2000’ s 'End Is Forever', a truly classic album that saw a move away from the punk-pop sound. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve played this album, yet I still make sure to give it a spin at least once a week.

In the time between 'End Is Forever' and 'So Long, Astoria', The Ataris signed to major label Columbia. Yet Kris Roe is determined that they haven’t sold out, stating that the bands musical style will stay the same and that they will remain independent minded – personally answering all their mail from fans and touring relentlessly. It’s just that hopefully they’ll have more fans! The first thing that I can say about 'So Long, Astoria' is that it confirms this. Any fears that the label would force them to sound like Sum 41 or Blink 182 can be dropped, and the band still put their address on the sleeve. The artwork has been lovingly compiled from Polaroid photos, and looks beautiful. Even before I hear the record, I’m pretty convinced that this will be another great Ataris record.

And it is! From the first chords of the title track to the closing 'Eight Of Nine', this is a perfect album. Kris has, it seems, got tired of writing nearly all his songs about being dumped, especially as he’s happily married, and the extension of his talents into other areas leads to his most interesting set of songs yet. The title song 'So Long Astoria' is one of many on the record that both celebrates youth and mourns the death of it, with its refrain of “life is only as good as the memories we make”. It’s a punchy song, and a great way to kick off the record. 'Takeoffs and Landings' is one of the few lovelorn lyrics (“If only you could be right here by my side, home wouldn’t seem so far from here”). It’s a little more restrained, but it’s got a great chorus.

'In My Diary' is the first single, and it’s not hard to see why. Its one of my favourites on the record, and has lovely lyrics. “All the nights we stayed up talking, listening to 80's songs, and quoting lines from all the movies that we love, it still brings a smile to my face”. I love the Ataris because they have a knack of making all the goofy insignificant things we do sound so important and exciting. This song can be twinned with 'Summer Of ‘79' – about a teenage night out – and 'Radio#2' (with the immortal lines, “We’ll listen to B-Sides and sing along to anthems of the years gone by, integrity and honesty will prevail tonight, When its over one question still prevails, Why do many bands never make it on the radio?”)

'My Reply' is another highlight. In December 2000, Roe received a letter from a girl suffering from anorexia, thanking him for The Ataris music, which helped her through some of the worst times. This song is Roe’s reply. He tackles a tricky subject with style. He doesn’t pretend to know the answer, and instead he tries to give hope. As much as I love lyricists like Bob Dylan and Richey Edwards – true masters – there is no way that they could have pulled this off. When Kris Roe sings, “I really hope you’re doing better, All your friends beside you” and later screams “If you’ll just hold on for one last second, Just hold on” its impossible not to feel really touched.

I love this record. It's truly, truly wonderful. Its pretty much all about the lyrics for me, but the music’s great as well. Punchy, warm, diverse and never derivative, it’s the perfect base for Kris Roe’s words. Every single one of the 13 tracks is truly brilliant; I’ll be playing this over and over.













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