Considering that Travis has spent the years since 1999's The Man Who settling into a quiet, unperturbed groove, it comes as a bit of a relief to hear Travis open Ode to J. Smith with a rush of guitars on "Chinese Blues." For some bands, this surge of six strings may seem reserved but for Travis it's positively rude, a welcome attempt to reconnect to their Brit-pop roots, when they were seen as heirs to Oasis' lad-friendly rock. As it turns out, Travis spent more time floating in Radiohead's wake -- with their innate politeness at times turning them into Coldplay's cousins -- and they don't escape that spacy, tasteful vibe on Ode to J. Smith, spending as much time ruminating as rocking. Nevertheless, the uptick in guitars gives Travis some definition -- more along the lines of extra texture than muscle -- and this gives the album some added color, especially when compared to its gentle, sepia-toned predecessor The Boy with No Name, which was otherwise appealing. Ode isn't quite as strong song-wise as The Boy but it makes up for the difference with its deepened palette -- again, this palette may not be as rich as some of their peers, but compared to Travis' other work of the past decade, this is richer and livelier as sheer sonics go. Now if they could find a way to marry this feel to the songcraft of The Boy with No Name, they'd wind up with an album that fulfilled the promise of both Good Feeling and The Man Who.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine