The Invisible Band
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2001, Volume 8, #10
Written by John Metzger
On its sophomore effort The Man Who, Travis truly came into its own. Combining irresistibly sunny melodies with optimistic lyrics, the band seemed poised for success in the U.S. market. But, alas, this was not to come, as Americans instead snatched up albums by the reigning kings Radiohead and the largely inferior Coldplay. What's a band to do? For the members of Travis, they simply returned to the studio to perfect and polish their formula, which has resulted in the equally charismatic The Invisible Band.
Over the course of its three albums, Travis has matured at a rapid pace. The band's lyrics have grown stronger, while its melodies have become more complex. Throughout The Invisible Band, songs weave together in near conversational style, and though the disc is not a concept album, it definitely finds the band beginning to lean in that direction. On songs like Sing, Side, and Flowers in the Window, lead vocalist and principal songwriter Fran Healy attempts to buoy his lover's spirits, while the intervening tracks seem to fill in the gaps in the story. Dear Diary very well could have been written from her gloomy, suicidal perspective, and on Pipe Dreams, Healy attempts to make sense of his relationship.
Yet, the songs also take on other meanings, rendering a yin and yang diatribe on spirituality and materialism. In this sense, Side points out that material wealth is meaningless when the end does come. This, in turn, is complemented by Pipe Dreams' statement that "it all boils down to the same old thing...whether you win or you lose isn't gonna change a single thing." As Healy proclaimed on The Man Who, life would be a whole lot better if love were the prevailing human emotion. As such, Indefinitely ties the intertwining meanings together nicely as love of life and love of another person come together in this haunting ballad.
These might seem like predominantly utopian ideas rooted in the '60s counterculture, but anyone who has ever found comfort and hope in the music of The Beatles — as Healy most certainly does — can appreciate The Invisible Band's message as well as its addictive and irresistible melodies. Indeed, Travis has moved beyond the John Lennon/Across the Universe strains that were scattered throughout The Man Who. This time around, the group broadens its Beatles-inspired perspective, taking a delightfully McCartney-esque turn on Pipe Dreams, giving a nod to Ringo Starr on the bonus track You Don't Know What I'm Like, and fusing them both together on the joyous Flowers in the Window. Likewise, Afterglow and The Humpty Dumpty Love Song sound like lost U2 recordings; hints of Radiohead abound; portions of Follow the Light draw straight from The Velvet Underground; and Moody Blues' style synthesizers and strings adorn Sing (as well as a myriad of other tracks), while a gong carries Flowers in the Window into the acoustic The Cage in classic Moody's fashion.
Travis has yet to craft the perfect album, but the band has climbed closer to this oft-elusive goal. Though its songs continue to pay tribute to an ever widening array of influences, the band deftly has merged these together to create something that is uniquely its own. While the members of Travis may never be the avant-garde pioneers that those of Radiohead have become — and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever — they most definitely will have a long and prosperous career. After all, there will always be a market for songs as gloriously beautiful as those on The Invisible Band.
Of Further Interest...
The Invisible Band is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2001 The Music Box