Travis may never return to their glory days of The Man Who and The Invisible Band selling millions of copies, but Everything At Once proves they still have a way with a melody and a deft turn of phrase.
Since what might be termed their imperial phase, they have always been solid and more or less consistent, perhaps with the exception of 12 Memories and Ode To J Smith, which were altogether more spiky and darker than anything the pop loving band have done before or since. In recent years the band have not been prolific, with all having taken time to raise children. Seventh album Where You Stand was released three years ago after a five year break, and was widely seen as a return to form.
But for many, Everything At Once, and indeed the band themselves, may be dismissed as middle of the road and sweet. This short album, which clocks in at just 33 minutes, does what Travis do best and is none the worse for that. Magnificent Time is a much needed shot of positivity and euphoria that even has its own dance, as demonstrated by the band in the song’s cartoonesque video. It’s extremely catchy and might cause some semi-conscious hummin of the line: “Sieze the day/ don’t throw away, this magnificent time.” So sings a joyous Fran Healy, and if you set this for your alarm, you may find yourself bounding out bed more than ready to face the day with a positive attitude.
The band have always been equal parts joy and earnestness. They were never a band you would catch playing a song they didn’t believe in. If Magnificent Time is the joy, then Paralysed is the earnestness; a song made to sound even more pleading, with the addition of urgent strings. On latest single Idlewild Healy is joined on singing duties by Josephine Oniyama, who adds her smokey, mysterious vocals to the tale of unrequited love.
If the title track teaches us anything its that you can’t have anything at once. Healy comes the closest he’s ever come to rapping as he sings “You can’t do everything at once/ but you can do anything you want.” The album was recorded at Hansa Studios in Healy’s adopted home city of Berlin. It’s where all the greats have recorded, and Healy has made himself at home there due to being friends with studio engineer Michael Ilbert.
Healy has said this was a bit of a do or die moment for Travis, claiming it could either be a first breath or a dying gasp. It may not quite be the former but it most definitely isn’t the latter. If there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s that Travis, now nearly 20 years on from debut Good Feeling, will quietly endure.
The band have been on their own Red Telephone Box label since Ode To J Smith, and have now settled in to this more independent way of working. They are making the music they want because they want to and not because of any record company breathing down their neck. This is not groundbreaking or a major change for Travis. But would anyone – least of all the band – really want it to be?