It’s strange to think that when Travis first appeared with their Good Feeling album, they were dismissed as nothing other than second rate Radiohead copyists. For while Radiohead have explored ever more weird and even more wonderful avenues, Travis have stuck to what they know best. Fans of beautifully crafted songs with a hint of melancholy will be well advised to invest in The Invisible Band.
The album kicks off with Sing. This, like many tracks, wouldn’t sound out of place on The Man Who. Listen to the sound of a banjo (yes, a banjo!) strumming gently behind Fran Healey’s world weary voice and you realise that Summer has just arrived. Sing is one of many tracks dedicated to Healey’s girlfriend Nora, and while it’s great that he’s so obviously in love, it does lead to some pretty sappy lyrics.
Flowers In The Window, for example, while possessing a tune that will prove more catchy than several infectious diseases, sees Fran declaring that “it’s such a lovely day, I’m glad you feel the same….There is no reason to feel bad, but there are many seasons to feel glad, sad, mad”. Sorry Fran, but it’s a short step from this to rhyming Moon with June (although Stephin Merritt got away with even that… – Ed). It’s an obvious future single though, and will probably drive everyone mad during August. In fact, there are at least four or five potential singles here, with Side and Safe being particularly stirring.
With Healey feeling so loved-up, you do sometimes yearn for a bit of darkness to counter all the hearts and flowers. Luckily, a band with a love of melancholia such as Travis provide that dark side in abundance. Dear Diary appears to tell the tale of some kind of breakdown, while the standout Last Train is possibly the best thing on the album, with ‘Kid A’ producer Nigel Godrich’s influence coming to the fore. A slow, slightly creepy, tale of obsession it features Fran Healey singing “I’m gonna buy a gun, gonna shoot everyone, and then I’m coming for you”. It comes as a bit of a shock to hear this in the middle of what is essentially a happy album, and it makes listening all the more pleasurable.
The only criticism that could be levelled at The Invisible Band is that Travis seem to have forgotten how to rock out. Even the essentially downbeat The Man Who had it’s rockier moments, such as Turn, but it’s basically ballads all the way here. While that’s nothing bad, it’s a shame that the other side to Travis, as ably demonstrated by their first album, seem to have been abandoned. However, the last track, the appallingly titled The Humpty Dumpty Love Song, does provide a fittingly beautiful climax. Healey’s voice is at it’s strongest, as he declares to a background awash with synths and strings that “you got the glue, so I’m gonna give my heart to you”. It should be too corny for words, but somehow it works, and provides a genuinely touching end to an inspired album.
So Travis then: they won’t change your life, but you’ll feel a whole lot better if you let them into it.