Review Summary: A safe but surprising bet that showcases the band's earlier experiences well.
Despite maturity within music generally being a well-respected means to refresh the sound of a band, a certain amount of acceptance is required in keeping with elements an artist is notorious for. There will, naturally, be a time when a band realises an album once created would be interesting to revisit with the knowledge and experience they now contain; sometimes (though not always) fabricating an album fans can easily digest and celebrate.
For Travis, there were more routes to decide upon than one may believe. Firstly, would they adapt any of the unseen, loud (sometimes aggressive, other times fun-loving) Good Feeling
? Additionally, how much would the bleaker, more politically charged predecessor to their newer release impact a band now in a ‘less depressed’ state? Eventually, Travis managed to put out a record reminiscent of a mellower, more innocent craft, whilst still opting for a darker outlook the band had suffered. The Boy With No Name
is one of the safest achievements from the band, yet offers interesting novelty.
Though fury no longer remains the driving point to the band’s song writing, emotions are still subdued and modest; “My Eyes”, one of the most popular numbers from the album, is a typically regretful Travis song, with some brilliant background acoustic work and controlling piano. There is no anger musically or lyrically, words such as Pretty soon you will see tears in my eyes
not suggesting a gathering storm.
This somewhat defines how the album performs. The band genuinely does not feel the need to make their songs explode; even in the more desperate, climactic moments such as “Colder”, there is a collected nature to fall back on. The band rarely feel obliged to fuss about issues, merely to regret them. Even when the album does come close to an obstinate attitude with “Eyes Wide Open”, it is pulled off as if it were their forte, a hammering drumbeat guides the song, along with hopeless, forceful lyrics Some alive and some are dead/Makes no difference when they’re in your head
Sometimes, however, Travis become their own worst enemy by being too patient with their own songs. “Battleships” does not have enough substance to hold its own significant place on the album, appropriately compared to a dumb-downed, even simpler “My Eyes” – a song that does not need any more simplicity than it already professes. “Under the Moonlight” is also an evasion by the band’s standards, showing up an entirely thoughtless pop inhibited style the band fall into the trap of taking advantage of.
Notwithstanding, songs like these could easily be reinvented with a little more vision. It can be pinpointed when the band is truly caring in their performance on the record – “Out in Space” is a perfected acoustic, empty moment that balances variety and comfort; existing as one of the most consistent acts for The Boy With No Name
. “Big Chair” is a representative song from the band, implying a great deal of helplessness expressively (It could have been me instead of you/It could have been me if I wanted to, but it wasn’t/So we’ll have to face the truth
a glaring insight into the album’s sentiment) – whilst being melodically excellent, introduced with a catchy bass line and continued with a well-constructed chorus. Additionally, Travis still have authentic fun on their own work – “Selfish Jean” a vigorous track (sampling Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life”[/i]) put aside a gloomy, ‘signature Travis’ theme. Opener “3 Times and You Lose” does very much the same thing, though is beset with a failure to shape into anything – more a promise of things to come than otherwise.
To say The Boy With No Name
is a step-down in terms of the band’s direction with the sinister previous album would be an unfair observation. While that album definitely conveyed to us an unnerving yet still fantastic side of Travis we were thus far unaware of, it was obviously based around the sadness the band endured. To create an album in the shadow of 12 Memories
would realistically be wrong when it was not felt.
With their fifth studio album, Travis accept the skills they have mastered over the years, whilst combining places they felt workable from their darker, prior effort. Though in places laziness is showed up on The Boy With No Name
, it retains a positive place in the band’s catalogue; clearing the way for however the band feel with their anticipated sixth challenge.