The Boy With No Name
Epic/Independiente (88697 07962 2)
One of Brit-pop’s greatest hopes, Travis washed up on U.S. shores in the mid- to late-’90s after Oasis hit America like a tsunami.
Strong chart success in the U.K. hinted at a full-on British Invasion for Travis and other acts of its ilk ? Embrace, Elbow, etc. ? but American audiences didn’t go for the dreamy Glaswegians in the same way they did for Coldplay or Snow Patrol.
The Boy With No Name could change all that.
Working off the same blueprints that scored the band a hit LP in 1999’s The Man Who, Travis distills star-kissed acoustic and electric guitars, tender piano, sighing vocals, washes of strings, and simple rhythms into a romantic, wide-screen sound that echoes both the Byrds and Radiohead, without the pretentious experimentation and dark paranoia of Thom Yorke and company.
Jangle-pop exercises “Battleships” and “My Eyes” take their cues from the Byrds ? minus the ringing guitar tones ? but stretch themselves out in more elongated, melancholy compositions, while the sunny, upbeat “Selfish Jean” recalls the Kinks circa Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). None of which ensures a Travis revival Stateside.
On the other hand, the Americana-tinged rush of “Under the Moonlight” or “Closer,” the first single from the band’s fifth recording, could do the trick. A wounded epic, along the lines of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars,” “Closer” is a sad, melodic parade of acoustic strum, layers of ethereal, male vocals, softly rising percussion and gentle hooks.
And if that doesn’t do the trick, “Big Chair,” with its snap-to-attention drumming, sharp string movements, easy vocal melody and steady bass lines, just might.
Stinging rockers like “Eyes Wide Open” come on strong, but Travis is at its best when its in full swoon or engaging in pure, blissed-out pop, which The Boy With No Name has in spades.
Another solid outing from Travis that proves that big, soaring production values don’t always drown out solid songwriting.