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Record Rating: *****

Travis Noel Gallagher of Oasis once claimed Travis to be his favourite new band, and the bandís breakthrough album The Man Who not only topped the album charts in 1999 at the height of bubblegum pop, but became one of the major successes of the year. That paved the new wave for acoustic rock bands to conquer the top 40, with Coldplay and Starsailor as the most successful challengers to the chart dominance of Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue.

Those who discovered Travis through the infectious songs of its breakthrough and its follow-up The Invisible Band may be taken aback by the Scottish groupís newest offering. Before releasing the last Travis album, lead singer Fran Healy had just become engaged to his girlfriend and the album reflected that mood with catchy romantic songs. Quite a bit has happened since that last release. Drummer Neil Primrose was nearly paralyzed diving into a swimming pool - and world events such as war and political upheaval have clearly shaken Healy. For on 12 Memories, the fourth album from the Scottish quartet, Healy works out various frustrations he seems to have picked up-musically and lyrically.

The lead single, Re-Offender, is an immediate return to form they seemed to have lost on their last album, and itís jarringly good. The tone is very much one of greater self-indulgence, but without swaying away from whatís made them. Occasionally bursting into jangly, Beatles-esq stuttering orchestration throughout the 11 tracks, their tone is very much one of greater self-indulgence, but without swaying away from whatís made them. Songs like the wistful Love Will Come Through and Something Else are great centrepieces with Healy taking a personal shot as trying to come off as the next Paul McCartney. But he just doesnít manage to pull it off.

What he does instead is get much closer to Coldplayís personalized pain than to the Beatles brilliant abstract existentialism. For this is very much like the last Coldplay CD - crisp clean acoustics sitting magically atop the keyboards and multi-way harmonies. Easily the best post Coldplay soft-rock record there is - 12 Memories offers us a timely re-reminder as to why the world fell in love with the invisible band in the first place. This is one of those albums that youíll probably keep listening to for awhile.

Read our other reviews:

Room 5 - Music and You       Gareth Gates - Go Your Own Way       Kelis - Tasty       Busted - A Present For Everyone

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