TRAVIS The Invisible Band (Independiente)

I never used to enjoy the music of Travis, in fact it fair sickened me that their last album "The Man Who" had been promoted to some kind of national coffee table totem ahead of the deserving likes of Shack's "H.M.S. Fable". Their songs always seemed so glossy and empty, just enough angst packaged up into radio-friendly four minute servings. But on "The Invisible Band" Travis seem to have come of age, gained some kind of x-factor that allows even miserable old grouches such as myself to appreciate the fact that there is something special going on here.

"The Invisible Band" is a lovely comfort blanket of an album. It's that rare kind of music that sounds instantly familiar, melodies that seep into the cracks in your collective memory and entrench themselves in your subconscious such that it seems you've known them for years even on the first play. There's nothing flashy about Travis' music, nothing of great import in the lyrics, which rarely venture above the level of simple truth and homespun homily. But it's inclusive, the kind of noise that can quietly bind a generation or two together without even trying. In the credits the band even thank "you for getting this record. These songs belong to you now". And we should be grateful for that.

It was whilst I was trying to locate the nagging sense of dj vu the melody of "Flowers In The Window" engendered in me that I realised the true appeal of Travis: they're basically the closest we have these days to Bread, playing the closest it's socially acceptable to get to soft rock. Which isn't intended as a criticism, of course, because, like Bread, they are undisputed champions of their turf. ("Flowers In The Window" turned out to be Bread's "Look What You've Done", by the way, and I'm sure I can hear Big Star's "Thirteen" in "Indefinitely", which is also no bad thing). And for means of comparison I returned to "The Man Who", and still found it a shallow and gloomy thing against "The Invisible Band".

In sum, this is a solid album that exudes craftsmanship from every pore, whether it be the casual perfection of Fran Healy's songwriting or the foggy-on-the-outside, crunchy-on-the-inside production by Radiohead associate (and I have to say that, even though I could have easily said R.E.M. associate or Beck associate, or even Travis associate instead, Nigel Godrich). If it turns out to be the one album people who only buy one album a year buy this year, they will have chosen well.