Ode To J. Smith Import
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The weaker-than-usual sales are an odd issue, considering that Ode To J. Smith is an interesting and mostly well-done record for the band. The sound on the record is much more aggressive and edgy than previous Travis albums, recalling classic post punk and garage rock acts such as The Ramones, as well as some newer favorites like The Strokes and The White Stripes. A restrained touch on guitar effects and the occasional haggard scream make this a fairly interesting and dynamic record, especially for a band that, like its contemporaries Coldplay and Keane, is constantly at risk of becoming just another stale adult alternative band. I think I even heard some banjo on "Last Words," which must be a first. Ode To J. Smith manages to negotiate the pitfalls of reinvention gracefully, managing to sound like classic Travis while doing something decidedly new for the band.
It's a short record, but that can be a serious boon in a time when mainstream rock albums are becoming more and more bloated with filler and extras. Better to rock out for 37 minutes than flounder for an hour, wouldn't you agree?
But after this newest release, Ode to J. Smith, I'm left feeling kind of disappointed. It's not that I dislike it, but rather, I don't love it. Usually I love everything they've put out since The Man Who. And yes, some people might complain and say they had gotten kind of mopey, sappy, over-dramatic at times, but hey, that's what I liked about them!
Ode to J. Smith is definitely way more rock, more electric, more louder than what I was expecting. I'm so-so on the first half, but at track 6 "Last Words" it starts sounding a bit more like a traditional Travis album, with a sweet banjo thrown in for good measure. I definitely liked the back half better than the first.
I've listened to it a half-dozen times now (which is made easy by the short running time) and I'm just not rah-rah-5-star-loving this, which makes me sad. Gone are the beautiful choruses, gone are the beautiful sweeping soundscapes. I'm just not sure I'm going to be listening to this several years from now like I do with most of their other albums.
Favorite songs are: "Song to Self", "Quite Free", "Before You Were Young". The rest is also very good.
So, here is "Ode To J. Smith", right on the heels of "The Boy With No Name" a year and a half ago. I'll admit this is a grower. On first listen nothing really grabbed me, but upon closer inspection, several songs began to sink their hooks into me like the album opener "Chinese Blues", "J. Smith", "Long Way Down", "Last Words", "Quite Free", "Song To Self" and "Before You Were Young". The rest I continue to struggle with just exactly how I feel about them.
The sound of this album isn't exactly a stretch for the band. In fact, they still sound maudlin and morose in too many spots. Sure there's hints of "Good Feeling" since the band utilizes more guitars this time out, but really, it's not that much like "Good Feeling".
After mulling this album over all week long, I find that "The Man Who" and "The Invisible Band" remain my favorites. "Ode To J. Smith" is neither here nor there. It's not bad, but it's not great, it just is. I keep wondering if this is it for Travis. I feel they are a talented band that could do so much more, but this is the third album in a row that has been just okay. To me, Travis have the potential to be bigger, but they don't pick great producers and engineers, and the band doesn't seem interested in trying to be more experimental with their sound. They don't seem inspired to push the limits of their particular brand of music.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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