The Invisible Band
label: sony / epic
our score: 3.0 out of 5.0
The Invisible Band for What It Is
In the wake
of the tremendous success of Radiohead
and Oasis, the American media has coined an over-broad term for
bands that sing with an across the "Pond" accent: Britpop.
The moniker is intended to refer to the experimental, but still
commercially accessible, pop of tortured souls from Britain. But
alas, we Americans are lazy and often sacrifice accuracy for efficiency.
In doing so, we carelessly toss Travis into the Britpop catchall,
even after the release of their second successful major-label
album, The Invisible Band.
members of Travis may show symptoms of bipolar disorder and, yes,
speak with an accent, but the application of 'Britpop' to these
lads is riddled with error. First off, they're from Glasgow
Scotland. Second, they play rough, earnest music that's closer
to Irish folk than to the art-rock and ego-pop of Radiohead and
Oasis, respectively. Aside from a moment or two when they tap
into the beautiful simplicity of the Beatles, there is nothing
'Brit' or 'pop' about The Invisible Band.
about what they aren't. Formed in 1990, Travis currently consists
of vocalist Fran Healy, guitarist Andrew Dunlap, bassist Douglass
Payne, and drummer Neil Primrose. They self-released their debut
EP All I Wanna Do Is Rock in 1996, then moved to Sony for
the release of their follow-up, The Man Who, in 2000.
Even on their
newest release, Travis still sounds like an honest, self-taught
pub band. What they lack in raw talent is mostly made up for in
instinct. They capitalize on the essential, fundamental idea that
contrast separates music from noise. Despite the need for more
rhythmic and structural variation, The Invisible Band maximizes
all other contrasts within and between tracks. The sad tunes send
you running for lithium, and the uplifting songs, consequently,
feel like lithium.
As the pharmaceutical
analogy suggests, Healy is a healer. Following the lead of the
front-man of another non-Britpop UK band, Bono of U2, he tends
to his romantic wounds publicly and tries to solve the world's
problems with a microphone. Even if his teachings are not entirely
original ("We all live under the same sky, we all will live,
we all will die" from "Side"), Healy's modesty
and self-proclaimed "invisibility" make him a better
candidate for savior than Bono.
unpredictable phrasing also bears great resemblance to that of
Bono. Healy dances around Dunlap's bold chord changes with irregular
intervals, delaying the resolution of a line or holding an unstable
tone until Dunlap resolves it. "Dear Diary," a melancholy
confessional of insecurity, best exemplifies this guitar-voice
best succeeds when it occasionally abandons dark complexity for
uncomplicated declarations of happiness. "Flowers in the
Window" is not a spectacular composition, but the blissful
delivery makes me want to skip through a patch of daisies. It
could pass for a McCartney song
well, maybe in his Wings
me wrong, The Invisible Band is not a classic. What sets
Travis apart from the Britpop of Radiohead is exactly what holds
the record back. The mainstream masses of Britain are quite tolerant
of and, in effect, encourage experimentalism in their artists.
Unfortunately, this push for exploration hasn't rubbed off on
Travis; The Invisible Band is simply a fun and refreshingly
modest hour of music.
liked The Invisible Band...
2. Dear Diary
4. Pipe Dreams
5. Flowers in the Window
6. The Cage
8. Follow the Light
9. Last Train
12. The Humpty Dumpty Love Song
13. Ring Out the Bell (bonus track)
14. You Don't Know What I'm Like (bonus track)