Sunday, November 24, 2013

A return to the signature

album review

Travis delivers more of the same - a good thing for loyal fans who like them just the way they are

Band: Travis
Album: Where You Stand

Their 1999 hit 'Why Does It Always Rain on Me?' gave Travis immense recognition and propelled their sophomore album, the terrific The Man Who (1999), to the top of the charts. The post-Britpop band has released a number of records since, but their overall commercial appeal has tapered off in the last decade. Yes they have retained their core fan base, but they have never been able to capture the attention of the mainstream audience like they did in the late '90s.

Their new album probably won't change things much.

The Scottish band has returned after a five year absence with their seventh studio record, Where You Stand. An affable collection of melodic pop rock, it's mostly mid-tempo, soft-toned, and often gentle in its approach with enough subtle variation to keep the record from becoming too monotone. This is basically Travis doing what they do best: crafting beautiful, contemplative pop rock. They're not trying to be modern, edgy, commercial, or even inventive. They're just being Travis; lucky for them, they're quite good at it.

From the soaring melody of opener 'Mother' to the piano balladry of closer 'Big Screen', the 11 tracks that make up Where You Stand offer little touches throughout that become more apparent with each repeat listen. The more straightforward songs - like the ode to unconditional support in the form of lead single 'Where You Stand' and the somewhat 'Walking in the Sun' reminiscent 'On My Wall' - revel in the band's effortless melodic sensibilities and the comfort of singer and primary lyricist Fran Healy's familiar voice. The few variant efforts come in the shape of the tale of betrayal in the eerie 'Another Guy' and the trip-hop of 'New Shoes'.

But on the whole it's all so trademark Travis that it's hard to see what, if anything, producer Michael Ilbert brings to the album, and therein might lie a problem (as well as a potential solution). Perhaps working with someone more dynamic could have helped the group lift their record from pleasant to remarkable, and create something more memorable while staying true to their sound.

Where You Stand is basically what you expect a Travis record to be. This is gentle music and a comforting reprieve from the sea of EDM that has taken over the charts, and it reveals a band that is relaxed, content, and self-assured. But while it's warm and sincere, it is also predictable and does little to change the band's perception or win over their detractors. Those who have found them mundane, dull, and clich├ęd so far won't change their opinion after listening to this set. For the rest of us, Where You Stand is nice, familiar, and reassuring. If you have fond memories of the band from their The Man Who and The Invisible Band era, then this record is likely to delight you. And it might even make you find your old Travis records, dust them off, and give them another spin.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 24th November, 2013 *

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