Travis have been recording together for over 20 years. They peaked in the late ’90s/early ’00s and over the last decade they have struggled with airplay and find themselves slipping down the festival rosters. Even though their last album, Where We Stand, was actually their best album since since 2001’s The Invisible Band, and received some of the bands best reviews to date. Can ‘Everything At Once’ (their eighth album) gain some momentum and return the Scots back to their festival headline status?
Lead single ‘Everything At Once’ was a refreshing change that promised a new Travis sound, there are flashes of Beck at his most commercial and it’s certainly not dull, which always seems to be the usual adjective that the critics threw at the band. If you have only heard the single and are expecting an entire new Travis sound, you shall be disappointed, as this is an album that is more a Greatest Hits so far. There’s the stadium-indie sound (if that’s a genre) of recent single ‘Radio Song’ and ‘Animals’ that are a delight, the former perfect for, well the radio and the later reminiscent of ELO and a reminder of front-man Fran Healy’s melodic vocal qualities, though not all of their big time pop songs work out: ‘Magnificent Time’ (co-written with Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley) sounds like is could be used on the end credits of a Disney movie, with the verse a little too similar to ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ for comfort.
They are more at home during the quieter touches like ‘Strangers On A Train’ that they have been excelling at for their two decades; if any TV/film producers are after a break-up montage tune, you have a winner right here. Then there are the “duller” plodding moments that have been a curse to the later years and almost the entirety of 2003’s ’12 Memories’. Album opener ‘What Will Come’, ‘3 Mile High’ and ‘All Of The Places’ are all very Travis, mid-tempo tunes full of jangly guitars, sing-a-long choruses and all very un-inspirational. ‘Idlewild’ and ‘Paralyzed’ offer some surprises, ‘Idlewild’ has an unexpected guest vocal from Josephine Oniyama and ‘Paralyzed’ goes all out on the production states with choirs, strings and a rather fancy bass-line from Dougie Payne (who is slowly becoming their finest tune-smith, penning their best tracks from their last two albums. Not bad going for a member who had to have his arm twisted by Healy to even join the band and to learn the bass).
Everything At Once is very much another Travis album, with a few little surprises and very short running time. The fan-club will be in revolt as this is an album that showcases the band’s greatest qualities and if they could allow guitarist Andy Dunlop some more room to rock out and allow Payne to contribute more they could still get back to being one of the best bands in Britain. They have always been at their best when they are at their liveliest – ‘Tied To The ’90s’, ‘Coming Around’ and ‘Selfish Jean’ are just a few examples. Maybe all they need to do is rock?
Everything At Once is out now via Caroline International.