Early in their career, Travis sounded like Oasis crossed with U2, and as the years rolled steadily on, they gradually replaced Oasis with Radiohead, without ditching that devotion U2. Travis may have cut out any of their overt rock influences, yet they retained the everyday, boys-next-door image that was so common in all the post-Britpop guitar bands, and that humility served them well on their 1999 sophomore effort, The Man Who, a commercial breakthrough that also established the soft, shimmering sound that was their signature. Unfortunately for them, not long after that album, they were eclipsed by Coldplay, another Radiohead-U2 fusion that managed to keep some sense of majesty to their music, something that Travis, sensible lads that they are, seemed to studiously avoid. In the wake of that simultaneous success and eclipse, the group survived some professional and personal struggles, taking four years to record their fifth album, 2007's The Boy with No Name. Far from being a long-gestating leap forward, The Boy with No Name offers a comfortable, familiar Travis, but there is a slight, subtle difference: the band has truly embraced their modesty, settling into their gentleness. There's a mild, untroubling weariness to their performances here that suits them quite well; it deepens the music, makes their deliberate tempos resonate, it makes the quietness feel contemplative, it even makes the cleanliness of the production feel right, a reflection of their maturity. If the melodies don't really dig in, they nevertheless float sweetly, meshing into the overall fabric and feel of the album. If the music never quite soars, it never seems as if the band is struggling in vain to achieve take-off, either. For the first time since The Man Who, Travis doesn't seem to strive to achieve something, they just exist, and their music is better for it. They're still ordinary, almost painfully so, but they don't seem pedestrian, they seem to have weathered some ups and downs, channeling that experience into an album that has a slight, yet palpable, emotional resonance that their predecessors often lacked.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine