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The Travelling Band: Sails

review travelling band x1 cong

In many ways, The Travelling Band play admirable music but this is their sixth album and they’re still most famous for having their van and gear nicked from Levenshulme.

We play The Travelling Band’s last album The Big Defreeze quite a lot, the thought process being: “We’re a bit tired, let’s play something inoffensive but tuneful”. It’s a grown-up version of those baby albums you can get, where a xylophone plays Foo Fighters hits.

The Travelling Band’s problem seems to be that when most bands think a song is floundering, they tighten it up a bit or drop a change and fiddly bit, or shorten it. The Travelling Band hire a 23-piece choir and full orchestra in the belief that more is better. The song isn’t improved, it just sounds prettier. Still, their studio, their money.

Talking of which, we were warmed up for this by their excellent Pinhole Sounds EP, which had two tracks by them and three by other bands who’ve recorded at The Travelling Band studio.

Wasted Eyes is on here and very jolly but track two was Borrowed and Blue, an excellent song that was recorded at the final gig for outgoing guitarist, Steve “Mugger” Mullen. There’s a great guitar solo but the live sound gives you more of an idea of what they’re trying to do, somewhere between Barclay James Harvest and Sad Café; Americana from Manchester with a hint of Nashville.

Album opener Moments Like Switches has a Death Cab For Cutie-style bass intro but gentler, and is followed by the previously mentioned Wasted Eyes, with a lively verse and a slower but grandiose chorus. Unlike You has similar lively feel.

Into The Water is rather like a pool of water, kind of going nowhere but strings and horns thrown in. Mopping Forwards is good, starting off as gentle indie pop via Neil Young’s Powderfinger before the piano is replaced by a twangy guitar solo, more guitar then a violin.

Last Night I Dreamt (of Killing You) is pretty good and almost veers into proper rock while the slower Failure Is A Bastard seems heartfelt.

It’s got its flaws — Loser is a bit of a miss, while even Keane would find Leftover Lines a bit weak.

Having said all that, it’s a definite step up and a sharper sound. Elbow and Doves battled for years, got good, and were then “suddenly” massive, and we can see The Travelling Band suddenly taking off. Well, taking off is a bit strong; “suddenly not languishing in relative obscurity”, maybe.

For people who like gentle Americana with country leanings and lavish production.


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