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The Invisible Band (Epic)


The title of the third album from Travis is a fitting description of the Scottish quartet. Borrowing tuneful melodies from an assortment of sources that runs the line from U2 through Radiohead, then wrapping them up in sunny, folk-rock ruminations, Travis is a faceless Britpop band playing likable but anonymous pop music. But sharp ears will discern differences between 1997's Good Feeling, last year's glistening breakthrough The Man Who, and now The Invisible Band. Once again produced by Nigel Godrich, who works in much more friendly and accessible terrain than he does on Radiohead's Amnesiac, The Invisible Band is the sound of Travis finally afforded the opportunity to let the optimists within speak. Now that credibility has been established (The Man Who was a massive hit overseas), singer-songwriter Fran Healy is free to grin, gloat, and be happy. And somewhere between The Man Who and The Invisible Band, the self-pitying "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" has turned into the rejoicing "Sing" ("Sing, sing, sing/For the love you bring").

It all probably has something to do with Healy being in love. He basks in the "Afterglow," proclaims his dedication to a serious relationship ("Indefinitely"), and even writes a modern-day fairy tale in "The Humpty Dumpty Love Song." It can all be very sugary, but the songs are played with just the right amount of devotion and fall right in the center of Glasgow -- the town where inspired modern-day adult pop resides -- to make the overearnestness acceptable. It's not that big a step forward from The Man Who, but listen closely, and you'll hear these affable bland lads whistling a happier tune.

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