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CD Reviews:  Review of 12 Memories by Travis

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You would think that the massive success of Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head would have made things much more difficult for like-minded hush rockers Travis. Instead, Travis seems to be liberated, not pressured. 12 Memories, their first album since 2001’s The Invisible Band, finds Travis rocking just a little bit harder, a nice change of pace given its languid predecessor. 

The major difference between this and Travis’ previous work is in the songwriting. Singer and main songwriter Fran Healy’s songs are usually exactly what they seem on first listen, with no layers to peel away “Paranoid Android” style. The songs on 12 Memories, while not as complex as the aforementioned Radiohead classic, don’t play their hand right away, forcing the listener to take in the changes in sound (more guitars) and attitude (angrier). “The Beautiful Occupation,” which is about exactly what you think it’s about (Tony Blair aside, the Brits are none too pleased about the current state of foreign affairs), may soften the sting of the lyrics with a lovely vocal from Healy, but only until guitarist Andy Dunlop tears into his first real solo in five years. The sentiment is continued on “Peace the Fuck Out,” which ends with a big “Give Peace a Chance”-style crowd chanting the title. Finally, Fran’s mad as hell, and he’s not going to take this anymore. 

The album’s not all rawk ‘n roll, but even the softer moments have a little more buzz to them than moments past. “How Many Hearts” is one of the album’s best, a pretty piano-driven waltz, and considerably ballsier than, say, “Flowers in the Window.” “Walking Down the Hill” is another pretty/tough ballad, equipped with yet another solo. It’s as if Travis need to get in touch with their feminine side on the last album in order to realize what kind of manly men they are here. 

12 Memories is a smart move for Travis. It won’t bowl people over the way their 2000 album The Man Who or Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood did, but it keeps them in the game, which is sometimes just as important as getting the big hit.

David Medsker

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