Alex Pegg

"12 Memories"

10th June 2005
reviewer: Alex Pegg
rating: 4 out of 5
published by: Independiente
released: 13th October 2003
  1. Quicksand
  2. The Beautiful Occupation
  3. Re-Offender
  4. Peace the fuck out
  5. How many hearts
  6. Paperclips
  7. Somewhere else
  8. Love will come through
  9. Mid-Life Krysis
  10. Happy to hang around
  11. Walking down the hill

Most great rock bands consist of a core of charismatic lead singer and a lead guitarist. Think Bono and The Edge, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards or Freddie Mercury and Brian May. Trying to remember the name of the guitarist in Travis is like trying to name a member of Coldplay that's not shagging Gwyneth Paltrow. Difficult. Hence the title of their last album ‘The Invisible Band’ which wasn’t a bad album but was a little bit smug and pleased with itself, maybe just a touch too nice.

Which brings us to Travis’s latest album, '12 Memories'. So what's new this time around? Well Fran Healy has kept his knack of writing a pleasing tune but this time there's added bite, anger, darkness and, as Ben Elton used to say, a little bit of politics.

Lead single ‘Re-offender’ is vintage Travis with a twist of Radiohead but tackles the issue of domestic violence head on. It has a sweet, almost haunting, melody but the lyrics offer the first hint that a new darker Travis is waiting in the wings. When Fran sings "You’re fooling yourself, ‘Cause you say you love me, And then you do it again" you can almost see the bruises.

Two tracks: ‘The Beautiful Occupation’ and ‘Peace The Fuck Out’ are directed at the government and their intervention in Iraq. 'Don't just stand there watching it happening’ being the message of the former to the listener, and ‘I don't know what you're talking about, There's too much shit pouring out of your mouth’ directed at Tony Blair and his cronies on the latter. Both could be potential hit singles... Although perhaps ‘Peace The Fuck Out’ may not get much air play!

The album's dark centre is ‘Paperclips’ perhaps as dark a tune as Travis have ever committed to record... The tune is sparse and in the background you can hear dogs whining and yelping. Its not easy listening but does help throw the lighter moments into contrast. The album starts to pick up again and ‘Love Will Come Through’ is perhaps one of my favourite Travis songs ever. Fran's songwriting has progressed so that he can write a song about love without it being cloying. Even though the melody is lovely and though the message of the song is positive it still has a dark outline.

The album closes with two standout tracks. ‘Happy To Hang Around’ starts with almost the exact same drum tattoo as Coldplay's ‘In My Place’ but goes on to become a fantastic song in it's own right, with another excellent angry guitar solo. Final listed track ‘Wandering Down The Hill’ is perhaps as experimental as Travis get. It could almost be Fran's vocal featured on a Moby soundtrack, and features some beautiful keyboards and a refrained vocal.

Any flies in the ointment? Well the spelling of ‘Mid-Life Krysis’ isn’t big or clever and neither is calling the album '12 Memories' and ‘hiding’ the 12th track as a secret one. Otherwise this is a complete and satisfying album from Travis. If the guitarist keeps up the good work we may even know his name by the time they release the next one.

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