Ode to J Smith | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Ode to J Smith

Fontana International/Red Telephone Box

Nov 02, 2008 Year End 2008 - Best of 2008 Bookmark and Share

These days being championed by Oasis doesn’t do anything for your musical career. But in the mid-’90s, when Travis first came on the scene, Noel Gallagher’s endorsement brought much public awareness to the young Scottish group. Surpassing Oasis in stability, after six albums and ten million copies sold, Travis has returned to where it started with its latest, Ode to J Smith.

Clocking in at a mere half-hour, the album captures all the exuberance of Travis’ debut single, “All I Want to Do Is Rock,” from some 12 years past, bolstering it with experience and the confidence that comes with a band that has gained financial independence. The album kicks off with the explosive “Chinese Blues,” and there is a classic feel in the urgent keyboard work and the pleading tone of vocalist Fran Healy’s declarations. Moving from desperate to beseeching in one fluid motion, “Chinese Blues” sets the tone for Ode to J Smith. This same up-and-down progression carries through to the title track, where the lows sound downright holy. There are tracks where the Travis of recent years, the weepy and watered-down version, rears its head, such as on “Last Words” and “Friends.” But it is the borderline aggressive guitar tones on Ode to J Smith that propel it along, such as on the hook-laden “Something Anything” and the happy “Quite Free”—each song’s simplicity is its strongest characteristic.

These punchy guitars help Ode to J Smith avoid falling into the diluted space that Travis has been increasingly slipping into with each consecutive album. At times the group became so self-pitying that one wanted to reach out and slap them out of it. They must have slapped themselves, because Ode to J Smith has very little of that miserable feeling and is brimming with robust energy. (www.travisonline.com)

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