THE MAN WHO
SELECT - June 1999
SELECT - June 1999
Rimbaud or Rambo? Who's the greatest? Maybe in rock they're
seen as equal: the conflict between the intellect and the
primal often makes the most compelling music. Travis' own
battle between the beerboy and the aesthete - once giving the
impression of a band who didn't know what they were about -
makes real sense here.
'The Man Who' offers eternal closing-time sentiments - love,
loss and loneliness - conveyed in the richest manner imaginable.
Pub Bloke has been transported to a sumptuous boudior to
recline in cushioned comfort and ponder on the exquisitely
melancholic nature of the human condition. He thought all he wanted
to do was rock, now he isn't really so sure.
Singles 'Driftwood' and 'Writing To Reach You', no less effective
for being practically the same song, set the tone of languid
yearning (lifted only by the melodically enhanced Arab Strap
of hidden track 'The Blue Flashing Light')
Throughout, the revelation that is Fran Healy's voice - something
like Byrds-era David Crosby by way of Thom Yorke - is a
pleasure for the senses, none more so than on smouldering
highlight 'As You Are'.
With only 'Turn' going off the rails in its stolidly
stadium-friendly climax, the melodic delicacy here cloaks
strength. 'Luv' cruises in upon some John Barry-style harmonica
while 'She's So Strange' resembles a sedated Arnold revisting
The Bluetones' 'Slight Return' = but it's good! Indeed, traces of
Britpop hits are littered throughout: a comforting sign that,
despite his angelic vocals, Fran's feet are made of clay.
The Everyman nature of Fran's angst is also demonstrated
in the occasionally graceless lyrics. Lines like "What's so
wrong/Why the face so long?" are unlikely to turn up on a
Radiohead lyric sheet. There's also a tendency towards slightly
silly internal rhymes (see "My dear/The fear is here"), while
the allusions to devil's haircut and designs for life on
'Slide Show' are possibly over-cute intrusions.
These flaws, though, only add to Travis' appeal as ordinary
chaps making extraordinarily pretty music. Untrammelled by
defining statements or startling innovation, 'The Man Who'
simply reveals good songwriters not trying too hard. So no,
they don't offer a design for life. But then they don't have too.