Travis – The Boy With No Name (Craft Recordings)
First-ever vinyl release of band’s fifth album
Scotland’s Travis had big success with their second and third albums, with singles like “Why Does It Always Rain on Me” and “Side.” Their sixth album, Ode to J. Smith, is regarded by many to be their best album from start to finish. Sandwiched somewhere in the middle is their fifth long-player, The Boy With No Name. Underrated? Perhaps – but we get to have a second look with Craft Recordings recent reissue, including the first-ever release on vinyl
Also during this time, singer Fran Healey and his partner, Nora, had a son, but were unable to name him for four weeks. The subject line in an email to friends and family read “The Boy With No Name” – hence the album’s title (eventually they would agree to call him Clay).
The album opens with “Three Times and You Lose,” featuring a hypnotic, acoustic guitar interplay. “Selfish Jean” starts with drums borrowed from Iggy Pop’s “Lust For Life,” before chiming guitars enter – it’s bouncy good fun. “Closer” is Travis’ best ballad – a gorgeous song with a great falsetto chorus – the single peaked at #10 in the UK.
“Big Chair” lays down an uncharacteristic, light funk groove during the verses before giving way to another great chorus. “Battleships” is reminiscent of peak-era R.E.M., while the hard pounding “Eyes Wide Open“ gives us a temporary break from the lighter, acoustic material.
The shimmering “My Eyes” references the moment Healey found out he was going to be a father, while KT Turnstall can be heard on backing vocals on the excellent “Under the Moonlight.”
For the album’s debut on vinyl, Craft did a great job of expanding things. The front cover has so much more power in this large format, as does the band photo chosen for the gatefold. The inner sleeve has additional pictures, as well as lyrics to every song (you don’t have to squint to read them like the original CD booklet!).
The 12 song album is augmented by a bonus, one-sided 7-inch single of “Sailing Away,” originally a “hidden track” on the original CD. The song is great, except for the oddly-distorted solo in the middle – sounding more like a kazoo than guitar. I wish Craft had done this with the bonus tracks that were left off the vinyl reissue of The Man Who.
While their earlier albums were hits in America, by the time of this release, Travis’ success had started to wane – I admit to not paying much attention to its release back in 2007. After giving things a second listen, The Boy With No Name stands up to any of the band’s other albums – an under-appreciated gem. And, the vinyl sounds warm and inviting. Here’s hoping Craft Recordings continue to release the band’s catalog with this much care. —Tony Peters