It's got to be tough to watch contemporary bands become hugely successful while your band, who may have been the trailblazer that helped the others get noticed, still struggles.
Some bands are successful in England and get even bigger in the U.S. Other groups tour relentlessly but still can't seem to break through.
Also, several bands have brothers. Most of the time, even though they may fight regularly and intensely (think Oasis), the brothers' dynamic has a lasting impact.
Occasionally, one brother chafes under the other's dominance and leaves. But it's exceptionally rare that brothers, who were founding members, both get the boot.
Travis, who were having U.K. success before Coldplay, Keane or Snow Patrol came along in '90 with brothers Geoff (keyboards) and Chris (bass) Martyn. The original name was "Glass Onion" a reference to The Beatles' "White Album" track. There were a couple early turning points. The first was renaming the group Travis, reportedly after a friend, and second, the addition of a Glasgow School of Art student Fran Healy. Though Healy had no prior musical experience he was installed as the vocalist.
After kicking around, but not really getting anywhere, Healy felt major changes needed to be made. The band's management and publicity agent were dismissed - and so were the Martyn brothers.
Travis' full-length debut, produced by the legendary Steve Lillywhite (U2), "Good Feeling" landed in '97. The album broke the U.K. Top 10 and Travis landed an opening slot for Oasis (Noel Gallagher was a big fan). '99's "The Man Who" initially was a disappointment barely cracking the Top 20. But at that year's Glastonbury Festival just as they started playing "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" the sky opened up. The soggy coincidence earned a lot of press renewing interest in the album driving it to the top slot on the album chart.
Following '01's "The Invisible Band," Travis won a BRIT Award for Best British band. But then Travis came to a halt. Drummer Neil Primrose took a dive into the shallow end of a pool breaking his neck and doing spinal damage. Healy didn't feel the band could continue without its drummer. Fortunately, Primrose made a full recovery with Travis issuing "12 Memories" in '03. But a U.S. tour did little to alter the group's stateside fortunes. "Singles" which was a collection of - well, singles, arrived next.
"The Boy With No Name," the fifth studio album by the group, was so titled as a result of the difficulty Healy and his partner Nora had naming their son. It took four weeks before they settled on Clay. Lead single "Closer" went Top 10 in the U.K. but no other single did as well. Weighing in, NME called "The Boy With No Name" "impotent aural gruel." On a scale of 1 - 10, the music magazine gave it a 2. Ouch. Fans, needless to say, didn't agree.
"Ode To J. Smith" was unveiled in '08. The title was a change-up from the album's songs that were "written about nameless characters or to nameless characters."
Travis songs are a well thought out and performed with care. And that's a bit of a problem. Much of their repertoire is nondescript - a pleasant diversion.
Healy's wispy pop vocals contrast nicely with the band's slight rougher edge. "Ode To J. Smith" features the melodic "J. Smith," the earthy yet off-kilter "Chinese Blues" and the driving "Long Way Down."
"The Boy With No Name" is not as bad as NME suggests but this collection features a high number of ballads. The delicate pop of "Battleships" works while the overwrought "Colder" doesn't. "Closer" is a great track with Healy nailing the high notes. But the set's highlight is the bopping "Selfish Jean." "Don't rock the boat when you can't swim."
A good way to catch Travis' early career is with the "Singles" collection. It contains "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" and the upbeat "U16 Girls."