I love Fran Healy’s voice. It twists and turns around words in an effortlessly emotive way and I’ve been hooked since hearing it let loose on the majestic, Ann Dudley-scored, ‘More Than Us’ way back in 1998. I know this isn’t a popular opinion and I’m meant to lump him, and Travis, in with Coldplay, Keane and what is lazily called ‘landfill indie’. But I just can’t. Listen again to ‘Writing To Reach You’, ‘Flowers In The Window’ and ‘Closer’ and tell me you’re not just a little bit charmed. Anyway, enough of my self-justification. What of the record?
Having lost momentum after the uncharacteristically awful ’12 Memories’, Travis seemed destined to be cast aside, despite a recent return to form. Indeed, ‘Selfish Jean’, ‘Something Anything’ and the aforementioned ‘Closer’ are as good as anything they’ve done. Indifferent critical response and loyal but unremarkable sales have meant that when it came to ‘Wreckorder’, which features Healy’s best vocals in over a decade and is a melodic tour de force, the world failed to take notice.
Most of the reviews tried to argue that this is more of the same for Healy and that it’s hard to figure out why he bothered releasing this solo rather than using the songs for Travis. These people either don’t listen to much Travis or didn’t listen much to the record before writing their review because this is a mature and individual record, quite apart from anywhere Travis have been in the best part of a decade and made by a man who has lived a little. Beautiful, beautiful vocals are the key to its success but there are plenty of nifty melodies to enjoy too.
The addition of Neko Case’s vocals to ‘Sing Me To Sleep’ and Paul McCartney’s bass to ‘As It Comes’ grabbed the few headlines which this record received, but it’s actually Healy’s accomplished singer-songwriter turn which deserves all the attention here. If you’ve never really got Travis, I probably wouldn’t bother, but if they’re ever meant anything to you, you really should treat yourself to this one. If you’re a vinyl type, and I suspect there’s every chance you are, I would recommend seeking out the magnificent – and very reasonably priced – pressing of this, which lets the splendid production breathe and sounds bloody good to these ears. Enjoy.