Travis – L.A. Times

A charming, eclectic return...

There’s always been more to Travis than meets the eye. The band’s commercial breakthrough ‘The Man Who’ may have placed them in a vein of downcast Millennial troubadours, but their art school roots and defiant musicality has always made them a curious beast to pin down. Tenth album ‘L.A. Times’ is a case in point – deeply eclectic, it ricochets between influences to both reinforce and overhaul the band’s deep-rooted sound.

Constructed with producer Tony Hoffer in a studio just off Skid Row, ‘L.A. Times’ is a world away from their Glasgow practise room origins. The same questing spirit remains – the stabbing note at the start of ‘Bus’ is the sound of a band commanding your attention. Baroque pop with more than a hint of ennui, it’s a tale of longing that acts as a riveting introduction: “I thought it was just us / Waiting on this bus / Waiting on a gust of wind to blow us away / Away to better days…”

The rest of the album, though, is a real pot pourri of influences. ‘Raze The Bar’ rides a beat that sounds curiously like a Destiny’s Child R&B song; it then shuffles through Tom Petty style Americana, before moving into a gospel-adjacent chorus. Seriously – just give it a go.

It’s not all vinyl shopping chicanery; at its core, ‘L.A. Times’ works due to the long-standing strength of Travis’ songwriting. The sombre, downbeat ‘Live It All Again’ is familiar territory, before making way for the Kinks-esque music hall study ‘Gaslight’.

For those seeking the familiar, this album has you covered. ‘Alive’ is a rousing arena-filling anthem, landing appropriately enough after some huge dates alongside The Killers. ‘Naked In New York City’ thrives on an intimate Fran Healy vocal, one that puts you in mind of Joni Mitchell places.

Yet there are also aspects that dare to be different. The polemic of ‘I Hope That You Spontaneously Combust’ offers surrealist pop a la Beck, ‘The River’ is Springsteen by way of the Clyde, while closer (and title track) ‘L.A. Times’ is – honestly – like a Scottish sleaford mods.

Short and to the point, ‘L.A. Times’ is a succinct example of Travis’ musicality. A mixed bag, it’s held together by feverish energy, and some of the band’s mainstays – the emotional curiosity, the willingness to think outside the box, and those empathetic vocals. A real charmer.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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