Release Date: Nov 4, 2008
Record label: Red Telephone Box
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Fran Healy and company find themselves back on the good foothalf-spoken delivery of Bono. Which is not to say that it is lacking originality. In fact, this may be the furthest Travis has removed itself from its catalog, with lyrics driven by a more outrospective narrative. “J. Smith,” with its ….
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.
These Scots made their name with pretty songs about falling rain and flowers in the window. Yet on this speedily recorded disc, they take a surprising turn for the loud and fuzzy. The music crackles with an energy Travis haven?t mustered in years, but the typically lightweight tunes don’t always justify the newfound tonnage, which makes Ode to J. Smith wear thin on repeat listens.
After Travis shifted 2.7m units of 1999's The Man Who, drummer Neil Primrose broke his neck, and the band bore the blame for guitar AOR. This back-to-basics effort turns up the guitars as high as their 1996 debut, All I Want to Do Is Rock. Where that Travis pointed a way out of Britpop, this one seeks the comfort of how guitar bands sounded before then, the bristling energy recalling early REM, the Chills and even occasionally Nirvana.