It's been a long time coming but finally Travis are back with new album Where We Stand, rightfully reclaiming their status as one of Scotland's proudest musical exports of the 21st Century.
Opener Mother is a slow burner to start with but when the chorus kicks in and frontman Fran Healy aptly asks, "why did we wait so long?", you can't help but feel a tiny bit delighted at their return. Moving is a definite toe tapper, with a superb vocal performance from Fran on the chorus. It's one of many tracks on the album, including Warning Sign and A Different Room, which proves that, even after almost 20 years, this band can still craft one hell of a great song.
I could have sworn I'd heard the whistling introduction of Reminder previously on a TV advert but can't seem to find any evidence... Anyway, this one's a little softer with breathy vocals and percussion which recreates the soothing, rhythmic rolling of an old steam engine. You'll see what I mean, probably.
Title track Where You Stand, like a few tracks on the album, is quite piano-heavy, giving it a bit of a Keane-esque vibe (please don't shoot me, it really does!) For a title track, you'd probably expect a bit more 'oomph' but it does the job and sounds good so there's no real need for it to deliver anything bigger.
Another Guy was the first we heard from the new album (if you didn't see the excellent video by German director Wolfgang Becker get it watched below!) The band exercise muted chords and rim shots to create a really subdued feel and Fran's apathetic vocals give the lyrics a much stronger meaning (that being, he is not a happy bunny). This subdued vibe continues into New Shoes which has a bit of a reggae dub feel to it. That may should like it shouldn't work but weirdly enough it does, and very well too. This makes it a bit of a stand out track, not because it's mind-blowingly epic, but because it just offers something a bit different compared to the rest of the record.
On the other hand, On My Wall and Boxes don't really possess anything which makes them particularly stand out but thankfully closer The Big Screen saves the day. The piano ballad sees Fran channel his inner Jeff Buckley in one final exquisite vocal performance.
You may long for the good old days of classics Happy and Driftwood and upon listening to this new record for the first time, you may find a few of the tracks bleed into each other. If you instantly love it, then great but if not, do yourself a favour and give it a chance. Stick with it and it's sure to grow on you. The guys may have hit their peak in the noughties but if this album proves anything, it's that they still have a few great melodies left in them yet.
- Nina Glencross
Travis - Where You Stand is out now on Red Telephone Box on all formats. Get it in records shops and online here. Check out the video for Another Guy below.