Since the dawn of indie music, there’s always been that one band that’s subject to ridicule; that guitar band that’s got the right ingredients but is invariably a little too earnest and wet for “serious” music fans to admit to liking. They’re that band that everyone pokes fun at and swears blind they’d never ever voluntarily listen to. They’re also that band that has a handful of huge hits that even your mum knows all the words to. You know, the ones with the nice, squeaky clean singer and a backing band of interchangeable, faceless “others”. Today that band is Mumford And Sons. Before them it was Coldplay, and before them it was Travis.
While their first album, 1997’s Good Feeling, spawned some post-britpop melodic gems (U16 Girls, Tied To The Nineties), the songs they’re best known for (Sing, Why Does It Always Rain On Me, Driftwood) earned them the bucks but lost them any chance they might have had of being considered cool by anyone without a four wheel drive and a tuner stuck on Magic FM. With a flurry of reunions and speculation about the next band to stage a comeback, Travis haven’t exactly been anticipated, mentioned or even, one suspects, remembered. But they’ve not been away for all that long; remarkably, their last album was released just five years ago.
Where You Stand will do little to get them back into the MOR big league. But what it’s lacking in anthems it makes up for in a new found subtlety. Fran Healy’s is a voice that’s long been overlooked and has perhaps peaked with this record; even his solo album, 2010’s Wreckorder, didn’t give it such a platform. Too impassioned to be delicate, too considered to be lost in emotion, it’s a perfect storytelling voice that’s never whiny and works around their melodies with ease.
Healy’s retained his knack of glorifying the mundane (see the lyrical content of the previously mentioned mega hits) and, frankly, it’s a bit of an innocent pleasure – like watching a black and white movie or playing with a kitten; you know there are better, more interesting things you could be doing, but this is simple, almost cleansing. That’s not to say the record doesn’t have a few little surprises; Another Guy is an almost lo-fi, slacker rock effort until it loses its way and flips the ‘repeat’ switch half way through. New Shoes is fuddled, with trip hop inspired percussion which provides an unsettling backdrop for Healy’s desperate, shady vocals.
But on the whole, it’s business as usual; a collection of brilliantly composed melodies that just lack the gravitas to lift them higher. Where You Stand is unlikely to convince long standing haters to switch team but those who were disappointed by their last few albums will be content with number seven – if not blown away.