At the record store last week I saw the new Travis album, The Boy with No Name. Earlier that day I saw their video for "Closer" [below] and liked the song, in all its Travisness, despite the video being a bit twee. It's the only song I've heard from the new record so far, but it definitely sounds like a return to form for the band.
And I emphasize return. The band tried to branch out with their last album, 12 Memories, which ironically committs a sin worse than being bad—it's forgettable. It was a critical and commercial dud; I remember walking into a record store less than a year after the album came out and seeing a new greatest hits album out—a sure sign that 12 Memories was such a flop that their label had all but given up on the band entirely, hoping to make what cash they could before "Driftwood" escaped the collective pop memory forever.
Getting back to that phrase: return to form. Travis is in the position of trying to resussitate an all but dead career. Reinventing the wheel, they apparently decided, will not be the way to go about it. On the surface—again, I haven't heard the album—the band looks to have retreated to their comfort zone. You need look no further than their album covers. Back is the trademark typeface—which I'm actually happy about. Remember when a band's name had to be portrayed as a logo? These days, aside from Travis, what am I supposed to write on my binder? Also back is the "band in landscape" photograph, rather than 12 Memories' grid of closeups demonstrating the band's poor taste in hats. Finally, the album title: as with The Man Who and The Invisible Band, we have an album title indicating someone only half there.
All of this is just begging you to give Travis another chance, isn't it? Barring actually hearing the new songs, they seem to be banking on their cover design to reel you back in. It's a promise that this is the Travis of 2000 or 2001, not the dastardly doppleganger of 2003. It's a trilogy-with-hiccup. "We promise we've regressed!"
And you know what? I'm intrigued. It doesn't hurt, of course, that I like "Closer." But really I'd all but written the band off in my mind, even though I still listen to The Invisible Band on a fairly regularly basis (not regarded by most as their best, but I think it wound up having more depth than The Man Who). Even liking the song, though, wasn't necessarily enough to get me to pull the trigger. Seeing the album cover and immediately relating it to the Good Travis bumped my temptation up a level, though. (Still didn't make the purchase; too much other stuff is out this month.) At any rate I'm keeping my eye on this one.
Here's the video for "Closer." (Incidentally, why would a band that has spent most of its career being compared to Bends-era Radiohead shoot a video in a grocery store?)