How to Disappear Completely (from musical relevancy)

Once upon a time (read 1999-2001) Travis was in a place in which Chris Martin would be very familiar. They were a hotly tipped band with incredible success in the UK and a good measure of underground cred in the united states indie community. The release of their 1999 album "The Man Who" stands as one of the high points of the nineties British Rock scene, with marvelous hooks and a general moodiness that is hard to find anywhere else. They had everything going for them, an opening slot on Oasis' United States tour, ambition, great songs, huge buzz, and most importantly, lead singer Fran Healy's falsetto.

This past month finds Travis releasing their fifth studio album, the flat and uninspired "The Boy With No Name", completing what has been a nosedive in commercial and critical popularity. So what happened in the last 8 years that took them from nearly being one of the biggest bands in the world to a band with a song called "Selfish Jean" on its latest release?

It's an intriguing question because it allows us to see what to do and what not to do when it comes to the music business. So let's make some observations about Travis and the band they most closely resemble in success: Coldplay.

After releasing a wonderful album of unique and inspired songs which chart well in the UK and have some success in the US:

What Coldplay did: Don't get caught up with the press, get back into the studio and focus on going about your business.

What Travis did: Extra tours and shows followed the album's release and backed straight up against the recording of their next album.

The writing of the next album:

What Coldplay did: Refuse to bow to label and industry pressure to write 'poppy' hit songs and continue to develop your sound.

What Travis did: Record the album that you want (The Invisible Band) but attempt to crack the US market with three (although decent songs) obvious mass market songs.

Now this is where their career paths diverted, with Travis' album selling decently following uneven critical opinions and Coldplay skyrocketing to the top of the universe. Travis enjoyed mediocre success in the UK but were completely forgotten about in the US. After a few rough years dealing with health problems and families (drummer neil primrose broke his back diving into a pool) Travis managed to pick themselves up and release a more focused album, but "Twelve Memories" only proved to show that they didn't understand their place in music. It was charming, but they still thought they were a band that should write big sweeping epics and not what they really were: a band that writes charming love songs which later become epics. This is a problem Oasis runs into nowadays: the enigma of the epic. If you try to write one, it seems forced.

Surely, though, a band with as much natural talent as Travis would be able to build off of some of the good things they got going with "Twelve Memories" right? No, they waited four years to release their next album (the aforementioned "The Boy With No Name") and released a singles compilation in 2004 which featured the two absolute worst "recorded only for the compilation album" songs ever produced.

And so now, here we are in 2007, with a flat album that will only further sink them into the realm of musical irrelevancy. This is not to say that the album is a complete failure, the hidden track, "Big Chair", and "Closer" are classic Travis songs: quaint, lovely, and pleasing. The album as a whole, though, is a massive disappointment for a band that produced "The Man Who", or even "The Invisible Band".


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