New Musical Express - 6 September 1997
New Musical Express - 6 September 1997
Their conversations with the press have been studded
with the awfully earnest pronouncements of the
terminally average. Travis are the art school
drop-outs from Glasgow who want the music to speak
for itself and profess a keen interest in the sound
of the blues. In all this, there's been little to love,
and plenty to make you turn the page and hope that they'
d rapidly disappear. Still, it was a bold opening
gambit, and one that would have ended in ignominious
failure had it not been for this album. When it
transpires that 'Good Feeling' contains 12 songs
of sturdy brilliance and intermittent beauty the
relief is astonishing. This might be a debut rooted
deep in the heart of rock'n'roll classicism, but it's
also an explosively accomplished exercise in the art
of writing thrilling and memorable pop songs.
What immediately strikes you about 'Good Feeling'
is the pervasive sense of dumbness that surrounds
it. Like The Ramones or The Cult, Travis reduce
rock'n'roll to an utterly simplistic world of girls
and alcohol. This is an album of beautifully
uncomplicated accounts of the good and bad times,
recounted through terrace chants and emotional
directness. Exactly the formula, in fact, that has
propelled Oasis to such an elevated position.
Not that you'll find many similarities between the
two - bar the odd steal from The Beatles.
Travis just aren't cut from the same punk ethic,
they're far more interested in the more serious
'greats' (especially Neil Young and the aforementioned
blues tradition). Understandably, then, what they've
crafted is a magnificent guitar record, and one that
makes no attempt to mask the fact.
Recorded in New York with the able assistance of
Steve Lillywhite, here are guitars in all their
ragged and resonate glory. The production is so
immaculate and enormous that what you end up with
is a mountainous wall of epic sentiment and magnificent
sound; the very noise that initially saw Travis
earmarked as standard-bearers of the new grave
It's apparent, though, from their three singles
to date, that here is a band more concerned with
the obvious than the introspective. The inebriated
howl of 'All I Wanna Do Is Rock' and the Glitter
Band euphoria of 'Tied To The '90s' are perfect
examples of the atmosphere 'Good Feeling' is
striving to create; traditional rock'n'roll songs
that marry a comprehensive knowledge of the past
to an altogether more intangible vision of the
future. And whatever anyone else tries to make
you believe, this does not mean that they end
up sounding like the Bay City Rollers.
Because, while occasionally the alcoholic
exuberance results in a song that sounds like
it was written in a pub, about a pub (see
particularly the unsteady piano of the title
track complete with drawled "la la"s), more
often than not it simply results in a sense of
doomed romance. 'U16 Girls' might have suggested
an image of leery Glaswegians with a faintly
creepy view of sex, but actually nothing could be
further from the truth.
'Good Feeling' reverberates
with broken hearts and failed love.
The savage reality of relationships
is the dominant theme, be it in the self-pitying
realisation of 'The Line Is Fine'
("Look at me I'm so disgusting/I will
never find another quite like you")
or the futile hope of 'I Love You
Anyways' ("Won't you stay with me?/I
know you disagree with me/But I love
you anyways"). Direct and emotional,
this is fiercely romantic stuff.
Indeed, by the time we reach the closing
salvo of 'Falling Down' and 'Funny Thing',
Travis have almost completely discarded the
heady exuberance of the singles. They conclude,
then, with two ballads of lovesick fury
and sparse sound, which bizarrely recall
The Carpenters and, in the case of 'Funny
Thing', Abba's 'The Winner Takes It All'.
And it's not everyday you get to write that
in an album review.
Still, 'Good Feeling' is the sort of record
that consistently defies all prior knowledge,
transcending any ideas that you might have
harboured about the personality of the band.
Instead of a blank and passionless exercise in
mediocrity, we find a debut of spirited vigour
and blatant (but glorious) commercialism. From
here on in, the only perversity will be not to