Travis: Anton Cobijn
David Browne
October 17, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

12 Memories

Current Status
In Season
Sony Music

We gave it a B+

When it comes to the arts, at least something good seems to have resulted from the Iraq war: Travis have snapped out of it. Working up a polite but forceful head of steam, the Scots — who virtually negated the splendor of 2000’s ”The Man Who” with its negligible sequel, the following year’s ”The Invisible Band” — spend a chunk of their latest addressing the conflict and its psychological effects in direct hits like ”The Beautiful Occupation” and ”Peace the F— Out.” Buttressing these sentiments (and singer Fran Healy’s dewy voice) is just the type of production Travis needed: jarring guitar solos, zigzagging harmonies, snow-crunching percussion. 12 Memories doesn’t sustain its vitriol; wistful afternoon-tea ballads dominate. But this time, the melancholy in tracks like ”Mid-life Krysis” is grounded in reality, not twee daydreaming. The album isn’t good news for Tony Blair, but it is for those who like a little substance in their balmy alt-pop.

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