With it being a full five years since the release of their last album ‘Ode to J.Smith‘, many people could be forgiven for thinking that Travis had quietly retired from the music scene, safe in the knowledge that they’d collectively brought a little sunshine, at least for a while, to the ears of Britain – and portions of the wider world.
After all, legions of young pretenders, aping what Travis were doing when they unleashed their brand of post-Britpop, new man angst on the world just shy of two decades ago, have been regularly crawling out of the woodwork since the early hours of the new millennium, garnishing the airwaves with the sort of music that soundtracked the post hangover blues of Andrew Lincoln’s hapless character Simon in the Channel Four comedy series Teachers.
Following the release of their first album ‘Good Feeling‘ in 1997, Travis really hit pay dirt with 1999’s ‘The Man Who‘ – a record that became a household name in the UK. They were rarely off the radio and, that year, their Glastonbury performance was made all the more memorable by the fact that, as they played ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?‘ the heavens did, indeed, open.
So why did it take them so long to make that difficult seventh record and, more importantly, is ‘Where You Stand‘ worth the wait?
For many, listening to anything by Travis has seemed like the sonic equivalent of putting on a comfortable sweater, and the music made by these likable chaps has always been pleasant and largely dependable, though not shy in throwing up the odd surprise or two along the way.
With ‘Where You Stand’, Travis appear to be breaking no new boundaries. There are no sudden deviations into glitch, drill and bass, or left-field electronica, although ‘New Shoes‘ does have an interesting leaning towards trip hop, and sounds a little like ‘6 Underground‘ by The Sneaker Pimps, but dusted with bounding, play-on-words lyrics which slip, almost velvet-like, from Fran Healy‘s tongue.
The title track, and album opener ‘Mother‘, are dizzying anthemic belters which have traces of Keane on a really good day, while ‘Boxes‘ sees Healy lamenting of childhood fun and games and their passing; a concept that, on paper, sounds a bit tedious, but is handled here with a wonderful sense of fragile warmth, against a gentle cocktail of understated. hip hop like drumming and light keyboard refrains.
‘In A Different Room‘ is an energetic, melodic little torchbearer, punctuated by drumming that echoes the deep percussion on Kate Bush‘s ‘Running Up That Hill‘, while ‘Another Guy‘ is a beautifully simple number, where Healy takes on the character of a protagonist who catches the person they love kissing another, all abreast a surprisingly choppy jam of guitar, bass, drums and droplets of electronics.
Second single ‘Moving‘ is a bright, sparky anthem, rattling along at an enthusiastic, jogging pace and with an excitably rushing chorus, while a real slow burner can be witnessed in the promisingly titled ‘Reminder‘, whose softly-softly vocals run alongside a pretty backdrop of aptly lean guitar and light swells of violin which slide in at the edges of each chorus.
A lot of ‘Where You Stand’ doesn’t necessarily have the instant catchiness of Travis’ heyday. It takes a little time to really grasp this record, to let it bed in however, although it appears to be a more understated than previous releases, ‘Where You Stand’ will doubtlessly come to bare its own true colours over time.