Travis – Where You Stand
Five years have passed since kings of soft indie-Britpop Travis released the virtually untraceable Ode to J. Smith. Now with the backing of Swedish producer Michael Ilbert, the band reunite to deliver their seventh studio album, Where You Stand.
Beginning the record with a light, bubbling Baba O’Riley-inspired intro is Mother, a return to the familiar tranquil melodies of old. The song takes a little too long to gain its full momentum but is nonetheless a solid opener.
Moving quickly follows suit with sparkling guitar inflections comfortably sitting atop a bed of violins, while title track Where You Stand completes the trio of delicate radio-friendly tunes. Together these songs hark back to Travis’ monster albums The Man Who and The Invisible Band, yet lack the potent edge to stand alone and propel the band back into the forefront of the British charts.
It is at this point that the album quickly becomes stagnant and careless with the intruding Reminder featuring some tediously mundane guitar-work from Healy and guitarist Andy Dunlop. The U2-influenced A Different Room and On My Wall continue this dormant trend, while the woefully dull Another Guy gives way to singer Healy’s most subdued and drudging vocal performance across the album.
Warning Sign and New Shoes are welcome distractions from the ceaseless onslaught of echo delays, the former laced with refreshing, soulful backing harmonies, the latter a cool jazz groove that has the potential to become a much grander piece. Perhaps something will be done in a future BBC Live Lounge recording.
Arguably the album’s most refined offering is the wonderfully crafted closing track, The Big Screen. Healy finally permits his voice to commute from his standard fragile delivery to full, beautiful falsetto across this piano-based ballad. The dark undertones that inhabit the track are both exciting and novel, though they would perhaps have made more impact had they been surrounded by work with greater substance and body.
That said, Healy’s refusal to experiment with his vocal abilities throughout the album is conceivably why much of it relays as a variation on the same few songs. Diehard fans will no doubt enjoy the predictable musical direction, and though it was never going to be a cascade of howling guitar licks, a few more peaks in this seemingly bottomless valley of an album may have reinvigorated the band in the eyes of new listeners.
Where You Stand is released on 19th August 2013, but you can pre-order the album here.
Watch the video for Where You Stand here: