Just as Britpop was losing its momentum, Travis released their breakthrough sophomore album The Man Who with its single “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” and brought attention to the post-Britpop movement. Coldplay’s Chris Martin has said that Travis “invented [Coldplay] and a lot of others”. However, where other bands aspired to selling out stadiums at the price of “good” songwriting, Travis has consistently created great songs that have never felt like they had “sold out.” Soon after, Travis found themselves selling out shows and headlining Glastonbury in 1999. In 2001, the Scottish four-piece released the critically acclaimed follow-up, The Invisible Band, and seemed like an unstoppable force. However, this was then followed up by the more politically charged 12 Memories, with songs like “Peace the Fuck Out” and “Beautiful Occupation” the angsty album was a hit or miss with fans. The release of their fifth album in 2007, The Boy With No Name, found the band returning to the happier and melodic tunes from their early albums.
The first single from the album, “Closer” immediately lets fans know that the Travis of old is back as lead singer Fran Healy croons about craving human contact over a gently thrumming rhythm section provided by bassist Dougie Payne and drummer Neil Primrose, while lead guitarist Andy Dunlop adds layers of E-bow played guitar. “Selfish Jean” begins with a blatant rip-off of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” drum intro, but once Dunlop’s chiming arpeggios combine with Healy’s vocals and acoustic guitar, the song becomes a decidedly Travis sounding track. “Big Chair” begins with a busy bass line that is joined with bright synth that sounds like someone whistling. The track brings to mind the comparisons to Radiohead on their earlier albums. “Battleships,” with its wistful, breezy chords and Healy’s wounded falsetto, is a deceptively throwaway jaunt that was inspired by a tumultuous period in Healy’s relationship with long-term partner Nora. “Relationships, more like battleships,” Healy had written in his diary, and from that a tale of futile push and pull was born, ending in a resigned sigh of “battleship down.” It’s one of Healy’s favorite tracks to this day.
While The Boy With No Name is not Travis’ best work, it fits solidly in their top albums and sounds exactly like a Travis album should and holds up as fan favorite. Fourteen years on from its initial release Craft Recordings is reissuing The Boy With No Name on vinyl for the first time. The album comes housed in a gatefold sleeve and includes a bonus 7” of the single “Sailing Away”. Cut at London’s Metropolis Studios, the LP sounds great and it a welcome addition to the library of and fans of Travis.
Photo credit: Ryan Johnston