Travis - Where You Stand
If you've caught any TV coverage of Travis's return to the summer festival circuit, then you would be forgiven for thinking they've regrouped to play the hits - or hit. Despite 'Why Does It Always Rain On Me' being the only song to make it to air (I suppose its precipitation theme makes it the obvious choice), Fran Healy and his fellow Scots are actually making a comeback in support of new self-released album Where You Stand. Given this album's predecessors, 2007's The Boy with No Name and 2008's Ode to J. Smith, saw mainstream interest in the boys wane but the songcraft remain dependable, where exactly do Travis stand in 2013?
Happily, the album succeeds in reminding us all why this band were such a big draw in the post-Britpop years, whilst refusing to be simply just an updated retread of The Man Who. Despite this, it's hard to imagine it finding an audience away from devoted Travis fans, as so much time has passed and I doubt anything here will find a home on a Radio 1 without Jo Whiley. Opener 'Mother' establishes a prevalent sound that grasps for, and occasionally achieves, Arcade Fire-style anthemics but the solid likes of 'Moving' and the title track do not bear obvious sing-along choruses in the vein of 'Sing' and 'Flowers in the Window'.
For anyone still keen on hearing the latest Travis record though, this is anything but a disappointment. Healy's vocal is distinct as ever, drawing you comfortably back in by the time the first verse is over, and Michael Ilbert's production (The Hives, The Cardigans) is slick. There are plenty of moments that make their return most welcome: 'Reminder' is charming indie-pop and I wouldn't be surprised if its whistling hook becomes a TV ad earworm in the next six months, while the slouchy grunge guitar in 'Another Guy' and the sweeping piano ballad 'The Big Screen' mix things up efficiently.
So, if the five years since their last album has been too long for you, be glad that Where You Stand stands on its own two feet - everyone else will have fine new songs to chew over while they wait for 'Turn', 'Driftwood' and the rain song at next summer's festivals.