Travis man’s solo debut might evoke his past, but it’s not one he needs to escape.
Fraser McAlpine 2010
Let’s get the shock news out of the way first: a lot of this album does sound like Travis.
Actually, you’d be mad to think that it wouldn’t, as the sound of that band is so intimately connected to Fran Healy, his mournful songs and plaintive wail. It’s what he does.
So for him to put together a new album on his own label, and sing them in that time-worn voice, well, it’s going to jangle the memory a bit. Even without Dougie camping it up, stage left.
The question is whether sounding like Travis in this day and age is a prospect which fills you, the listener, with delight or despair.
Lead single Buttercups is a sad tale of an on-the-cheap romantic gesture being tossed to one side, and it’s still got that old melancholy magic to it. It does the thing that Fran does best, which is find a light, humble way to make quite an angry point about where our heads are at these days.
Fly in the Ointment even has that Why Does It Always Rain on Me? swagger to it, even if it does display a far more jaundiced, finger-pointing view of humanity. Never mind telling a teenage lie, the protagonist in this song is a grump who is just trying to get everyone out of his face so he can go and get a drink.
It does feel a little strange that the chance to throw in a colliery brass band or dubstep breakdown has been largely ignored. Holiday is so close to being Writing to Reach You in arrangement, you wonder why he didn’t ditch the chiming guitar, in favour of something else. But then, why should he?
Nor any sense that it’s a past that needs to be escaped from.