Travis: Ode to J. Smith

In advance of their sixth studio album’s release, Travis promised it would be their “loudest and edgiest yet,” which was both intriguing and laughable; given that the band’s recent efforts had seen them slipping into increasingly beige, tempo-hostile territory – and given that they’ve never exactly been rockers – Fran Healy and co. could have cut the most moderately “edgy” album in history and still lived up to their prediction. Surprise, surprise – Ode to J. Smith actually does rock, sort of. This is still Travis we’re talking about, so don’t go in expecting Motörhead levels of noise, but these 11 tracks are certainly among the sweatiest Travis has ever recorded – and what’s more, they are, by and large, quite a lot of fun to listen to. Opener “Chinese Blues” finds them bridging the gap between Coldplay and Oasis (and pulling it off), “Broken Mirror” is Nirvana by way of early Radiohead, and “Last Words” blends discreet strings, buzzsaw guitars, a banjo, and a niftily understated rhythm track to build a case for a new golden era of alt. rock in the 21st century. Hell, Healy even lets out a scream at one point during “Long Way Down.” It isn’t likely to win them many new American converts, but as an unexpectedly sprightly mid-career entry from an act that seemed to have fallen in a deep rut, it’s one of the nicest surprises of the fourth quarter. Britpop fans, order your copies at once. (Red Telephone Box 2008)

Travis MySpace page


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