Music

Travis – The Invisible Band: Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition [Review]

While Travis’ second album The Man Who launched them into the popular music stratosphere, following them their lively debut Good Feeling in 1997, it was 2001’s The Invisible Band that saw the Scottish four-piece truly move into another gear in both song writing and wider success, eventually going 9x platinum, this was one of those albums everybody seemed to have and love, and quite right to.

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the album, Travis and Craft Recordings have launched this rather splendid Deluxe Reissue, which features the Nigel Godrich-produced album remastered by the Grammy award-winning engineer Emily Lazar, a complete set of original B-Sides, alongside unreleased demos, live sessions and alternative versions of a selection of tracks.

Contained in the fine boxset is two 180g heavyweight clear LPs and two CDs, cut at the iconic Air Studios, as well as unseen photography, handwritten lyrics and essays (from the Band: Fran Healy, Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose) and further contributions from Godrich, all housed within a genuinely lovely 12” booklet that greets you as you first open everything up. I’ve added a few shots below, but not too many as you want to enjoy those good things for yourselves…

Recorded in LA at Ocean Way Studios, aside from Pipe Dreams recorded at Air Studios in London, The Invisible Band opens with the big easy hit Sing, and check out what Godrich has to say about that – in a good way! The iconic Radiohead producer also mentions – and the band agree – that it’s been a long time since a lot of us revisited this album but it’s really, really worth it. This is a brilliantly reflective, upbeat and equally interesting collection of songs that envelope a band in their prime, writing songs that have lasted 20 years with ease.

Sing feels like it encapsulates Travis to some extent, especially at that point, optimistic, open and melodic with nothing being hidden but this album isn’t just about those moments, and there are welcomingly more than a few, because there’s also a melancholic darkness lingering throughout The Invisible Band, and that’s what makes it so notably composed. While The Man Who settled itself amongst wintry cover art, their third album kicks off in joy before bringing back us calmly back in with Dear Diary: A Healy lament ­over questioning his own well-being and you can welcomingly sense a Thom Yorke-esque haunting vocal over a simple acoustic and harmonic setup. Putting this track in second spot is a brave choice, keeping us holding back before the lifting of track 3: Side – One of my absolute favourites.

This is the story of a life, the circle of all, the thought process of trying to do better and the reason to step back and accept the now. It’s a beauty with a lovely bassline below the acoustic guitars, and even talks you through song writing itself. You could sing it during a storm, and you’d be lost within it. They don’t stop there because we go straight into Pipe Dreams, another massive favourite with that melody, that gorgeous rhythm from the band effortlessly connecting with Fran’s voice. Another stunningly produced track from Godrich.

Flowers in the Window can feel a little pop heavy but it’s also a gorgeously written track, pure optimism and for Healy’s long-time partner Nora, so you allow the simple rhythms and while it reached Number 18 as the third single, this band were always about the album and that experience anyway. It works as well, because The Cage follows as the opposite of the previous, a possible story from a past relationship but nevertheless balancing out the album impressively.

One of the best things about having an album on vinyl is having a favourite side, and Side B on The Invisible Band is where I find my heaven. Opening with Safe, those first lines randomly pop into my head on various occasions. There’s something about how long it holds back, about the narrative, and how the reversed-dream-like loops drift in and out, pulling in and out of memories come, gone and yet to be. Follow the Light almost distils those fears and enticing unknowns, with a more mature insight that tells you not to worry because ‘nobody really knows where they’re supposed to go’ and I think we all live through that from time-to-time.

Last Train is very self-referential, like Writing to Reach You on The Man Who, it’s also got that lovely night-time vibe that came through on 12 Memories, which was so much murkier than everything before and after it, but I didn’t mind it all. Hints of Cronenberg as it twists you down through its darkened alleyways. And then from that deep dive, we hit the final three that are packed with reflection, real heart and could easily be one huge track, and would work just as effectively.

Afterglow is ‘feeling itself falling through time, all of the time, feeling alright’ and I’m there. That ethereal melody with a subtle sadness keeps the Travis ship steady, in the finest way. Then we hit Indefinitely which is an outstandingly warm, insightful and deeply honest song, which alongside The Humpty Dumpty Love Song just took me back 20 years. I’ve said it a few times, but that natural innocence of the record reminded me of a place with less wider fears and worries, like Teenage Fanclub’s Grand Prix, this really is ageless, and it’ll jump right back on your heartstrings.

On the second LP, you’ve got a host of B-Sides with live tracks and covers. It’s interesting because during this era, covers of songs weren’t as common as they are now. Whereas the Live Lounge has become a place where people simply expect a band to cover a famous track, not every band followed this trait in the late 90s, or early 2000s and Travis have some great ones here including All The Young Dudes (Live at the legendary Barrowlands), Here Comes the Sun (Live from the lesser-spotted TOTP Awards in 2001) and also an epic version of Killer Queen.

Alongside the two LPs, you’ve got two CDs as well and the B-Sides and Rarities one offers more tracks from the band including a few demos, acoustic tracks and more Live from BBC outings. There’s a lovely nod in the all-too-brief, but insightful, sleeve notes from each of the band. It takes us into their memories of the time and how The Invisible Band stemmed from the success of The Man Who, but how they had just a day off after finishing the touring of that album before diving into whatever came next and, at that moment, they didn’t really know what would come. And, like any band, if it would come at all.

But their California adventures was an absolute success, and I want to learn more about the booklet-mentioned Chateau Marmont, as this Deluxe collection of songs was not just a welcome memory boost for them, but it was very much for me as well, because this is a contemporary classic that deserves a re-visit, and this Deluxe Version from Craft Recordings is a wonderful way to relive it all.

“Cos all I need is you. I just need you.”

Travis – The Invisible Band: Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition is released on 3 December, pre-order from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3G2kSix or for a special signed edition, head over to Craft Recordings by clicking here!

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