First Appeared at The Music Box, December 2003, Volume 10, #12
Written by John Metzger
Those who discovered Travis through the infectious songs of its breakthrough The Man Who and its follow-up The Invisible Band may be taken aback by the Scottish groupís fourth outing 12 Memories. Rather than continuing to churn out melodic, but melancholic pop that seems caught between Radiohead, Oasis, and The Beatles, Travis opted to return to the U2-isms and í80s rock of its debut Good Feeling. Not that 12 Memories is necessarily a re-tread. Instead, the album is a transitional effort that wraps the combined sonic structure of the bandís first three releases around its blossoming and far gloomier socio-political perspective. Unfortunately, the end result is somewhat disjointed, and despite have its heart in the right place, the lyrics are occasionally awkward.
Then again, Travis always has been a more emotional than intellectual ensemble, one that consistently has wrapped its bittersweet love songs as well as its populist musings on peace and love within charmingly tender arrangements. Granted, the group was sad enough to deliver a tune titled Why Does It Always Rain on Me?, but there was always a sense of optimism tucked inside its bubbly, buoyant music. That was, however, before Travisí world shattered. On a global perspective, everything went to hell after George W. was placed in office and Tony Blair lost his mind; closer to home, the bandís drummer was nearly killed in a diving accident. No wonder the songs on 12 Memories are uncomfortable and unsettling; itís a difficult task to focus on the positive when oneís universe is in complete chaos.
Indeed, the biggest difference between 12 Memories and Travisí previous efforts is that the groupís new album isnít nearly as immediately accessible. The melodies just donít jump out and grab the listener like those on The Man Who or The Invisible Band, and itís only after spending some time with the song cycle that its mellifluous moments begin to emerge. There are bits of The Beatles and the Beach Boys, and smatterings of R.E.M., The Church, and Bends-era Radiohead. Still, this concoction never sounds like a fully cohesive work. While the band always has worn its influences proudly upon its sleeve, it has not sounded this unsure of itself since its debut. Instead of embracing its new clothes, Travis seems merely to be trying them on for size, laudably searching for some new realms to explore, but never quite making them its own.
12 Memories is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box