After finding their footing with their second album and refining it further on their junior effort (though the prevailing critical opinion has always declared that the former is their best album), Travis wisely allowed their sound to evolve on 2003’s 12 Memories. The album certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was the product of a band that refused to sit pretty the way Bush and Blair instructed us to while the whole world was exploding. The Boy With No Name, however, finds the band back-peddling by reuniting with Nigel Godrich (on five tracks) and trying to recreate the frilly pop splendor of their previous successes. Travis’s melodies have always been a bit same-y, so the fact that songs like “My Eyes” and “Out In Space” sound familiar isn’t a notable problem. Fran Healy is still capable of treacly schlock (“When will you carry me home/Like the wounded star in the movie?” he asks on “Battleships” before launching into a chorus of bad board game metaphors: “Overboard, drowning in a sea of love and hate/But it’s too late/Battleship down!”), but he’s just as often funny (the album opens with the lyric “I had a nightmare I lived in a little town”) and his sentimentality usually works (the line “You know that I ♥ everything about you” is made less dorky when the mid-phrase “heart” is rhymed with the word “hard” on the standout “Big Chair”). The band may have paved the way for the likes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, but they still haven’t found their “Clocks” or “Chasing Cars.” The Boy With No Name‘s aptly-titled lead single, “Closer,” brings Travis a little closer—if only U.S. pop radio would have the good sense to actually play it.
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