Scottish indie band Travis’ fourth album, released October 13th 2003 on Independiente, 12 Memories sees something of a departure from the emotional simplicity of their earlier albums. We find Fran Healy exploring much darker themes in his lyrics, primarily (and predictably) the war on Iraq. The album is a lot harsher musically as well, introducing more severe drumming from Neil Primrose, distortion-filled guitar sections and experiments with all manner of unusual instruments to fill the voids. All in stark contrast to the minimal, quiet songs on The Invisible Band.
Here it is track by track:
- Quicksand (2:39)
A fine piano-led opener, this is classic Travis and a perfect way to lead into the new album and it’s more edgy material.
- The Beautiful Occupation (3:45)
A war-oriented track, and also the second single. It confronts the uncaring attitude some were displaying towards the developments in the Middle East at the time the song was written (October 2002 according to travisonline.com) – 'Read it in the headlines/Watch it on the TV/Put it in the background/Stick it in the back, stick it in the back’.
- Re-Offender (3:48)
The first single off the album, this is catchy and upbeat, despite the dispiriting theme – domestic violence in a doomed relationship.
- Peace The Fuck Out (2:55)
A discordant opening section gives way to another likeable chord sequence. The song ends with supporters of Celtic and Fulham football clubs roaring out the title.
- How Many Hearts (4:46)
A slightly slower song with an interesting chord pattern in the verse and a driving, guitar-heavy chorus.
- Paperclips (3:36)
The darkest, most unconventional song on the album, Paperclips starts simply with a mumbling voice and weedy guitar. Organs and accordions join in to try out strange melodies underneath Healy’s fragile lyrics. A disturbingly attractive mid-album jaunt.
- Somewhere Else (3:13)
A piano and glockenspiel open up an immediately memorable, cheerful tune in the vein of Flowers in the Window. This is a very strong song, and my personal favourite on the album.
- Love Will Come Through (3:40)
Another single, with an infectious melody that wanders up and down the guitar with a lovely minor twang.
- Mid-Life Krysis (3:39)
A lonely acoustic guitar strums a jarring little chord pattern before being joined by stilted drums and a whining voice. When the chorus kicks in, though, things become more lively. Something that sounds like a kettle drones above the tune and continues to hiss and buzz here and there throughout the rest of the record.
- Happy To Hang Around (3:34)
A slow bass beat and heavy drums start off another slab of dark melancholia, with bitter lyrics to match.
- Walking Down The Hill (9:21 including hidden track)
A repetitive piano riff accompanies a rambling, story-like lyric. This is the weakest song on the album and after a minute's gap leads into the hidden 'twelfth memory', which isn’t much better – little more than a nursery rhyme.
12 Memories is definitely a new direction for Travis, and one not necessarily enjoyed by all, but I applaud them for experimenting a bit with their usual sound without betraying their trademark style and past successes completely.