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Travis - 12 Memories Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 October 2004


12 Memories
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Epic
release year: 2003
performance: 8
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

Image12 Memories by Travis is an album of 12 songs that speak to mankind’s all too familiar post-breakup stage in life. This uncomfortable and confusing state of being is nicely summarized in the song “Somewhere Else.” With it, singer Francis Healy wonders, “And this will turn into something else/Something else/But when it does I’ll be somewhere else/Somewhere else/Where else?” Healy is headed “somewhere else,” but just where this vague “else” region actually is, is anybody’s guess. It all leaves him lugging excess memories and feeling like a lost little boy.

Memories are referred to a few times in this album’s lyrics. But for the most part, these songs are the actual memories themselves. Stray bits of music, correspondence and conversation all seem to meld together into one big indecipherable ball of emotion for Healy and Travis. On “Paperclips,” Healy sings, “Paperclips/Melody/Hold together these memories.” His life, it seems, is like one large messy work desk. He sounds sad for the most part, but on “Paperclips,” which also features a mournful clarinet part, he seems especially quiet and tortured. On the acoustic and psychedelic vibe of “Mid-Life Krysis,” he sings, “Memories fill your harbor/History to be made.” He also sings, “You can’t wake from this nightmare,” revealing how these troubling memories are clearly unwanted visitors to his personal harbor. A better view, with more hopeful of memories, is expressed with the album closer, “Walking Down The Hill,” where Healy sings, “Oh baby, don’t become a part of the past/You can become a part of the keep.” It expresses a bit of hope, albeit reluctantly.

12 Memories brings out the folk-rock group in Travis, due to all the acoustic piano and guitar on it. “How Many Hearts,” for instance, is mostly a strummed acoustic guitar and a piano, while “Re-Offender” begins with acoustic guitar and a skiffle beat. The untitled and uncredited bonus cut that ends this album is built from acoustic piano and guitar alone, and feels like a weepy old Joni Mitchell song or an overtly secularized hymn.

This is not to say that this is an entirely hushed affair. “Happy To Hang Around,” as an exception, has the biggest thumping drum part of the whole album, and also its only truly rock ‘n’ roll electric guitar solo. “Love Will Come Through” -- although it is not at all loud -- still retains a circus-y melody that is a little like a more subdued “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by the Beatles. Another standout cut is “The Beautiful Occupation,” which contains a Smith-y ringing guitar line and a chorus that is all Beach Boy-orchestrated Pet Sounds.

Within the modern pop music spectrum, Travis is much closer to Coldplay’s personalized pain than to Radiohead’s abstract existentialism. The group’s take on the loss of love is mixed together with world events (“Peace The F*** Out”) and growing older (“Mid-Life Krysis”), making 12 Memories an album that is beautifully melancholy.

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