The Boy With No Name heralds the return of Travis, the band Chris Martin claims “invented” Coldplay (but please don’t hold it against them).
Taking its name from the fact that lead singer Fran Healy needed a while to decide what to call his son, if albums are allowed to have a theme this one’s is that having a rest and taking a step back from stadium stardom can leave a band refreshed and reinvigorated if not reinvented.
Travis’ fifth studio album is their first in three and a half years, and while it can’t exactly be described as a return to form (as they never deviated from it across their previous four offerings) it’s certainly a return, serving up another twelve slices of the piano-tinged stadium indie they do best.
And remember, creating ‘stadium indie’ might be thought of a bad thing in retrospect, when they first came on the scene, no-one else was doing it so, love them or hate them, they deserve your attention even if they are to blame for Keane.
The time-gap between this album and the previous one, 12 Memories, is the result of the band deciding they needed a break from the events of the previous years, which saw sales jump from 40,000 on their debut album Good Feeling to multi-platinum for their second, The Man Who, in just two years.
You’ll be pleased/disappointed then (delete as appropriate) to hear that they’ve resisted any temptation which may have arisen to reinvent themselves as a hardcore-metal-techno outfit and have returned sounding pretty much exactly the same as they did three and a half years ago. From the gentle pop ballad of opener 3 Times And You Lose, they’re as inoffensive but irritating catchy as they’ve always been. Selfish Jean is a good pun topping an equally good little pop tune, Big Chair is epic and insanely relaxing.
Recent single Closer is catchily familiar, already having wormed its way under the skin and Battleships also jumps out as a track that could easily hold its own as a single. My Eyes and album closer New Amsterdam are the kind of tracks any true indie snob should wash their ears out with Sonic Youth for liking (but you do anyway).
With the advent of downloads there’s an argument that every single track has to be able to stand on its own two feet, and those on this album do – each and every one is worth its 79p. Unless you hate this kind of music completely (and I can’t bring myself to hate you if you do) the only thing to fault on the Boy With No Name is the usual pointlessness of the ‘bonus track’ you need to wait far too long for at the end. All bands please take note: thirty seconds of silence on the iPod is not worth the trouble. Ever.
Is this the kind of music your mum and the girls around the watercooler who only talk about Big Brother like? Yes, it is, but you know you really like it too. After all, it’s hard being cutting edge and reactionary all the time. Sometimes, isn’t it better just to like back with a glass of supermarket wine and not feel like you have to try so hard?