The Man Who
(Independient Ltd./Sony International)
First Appeared at The Music Box, August 2000, Volume 7, #8
Written by Michael Karpinski
If it's true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Radiohead and Oasis ought to feel amply lauded by the Glasgow-based band Travis. Produced by Radiohead's designated knob-twiddler Nigel Godrich, The Man Who finds the four lads of Travis graduating from the canned, frat-cad shenanigans of 1997's Good Feeling and hurdling headlong (and perhaps just a wee bit prematurely) into midlife-crisis ennui. Gently cascading acoustic guitars adorned with subtle swells of piano and cello are the order of the day — the aural equivalent of drifting down an indolent river in a heroin-veined haze.
Subdued and unprepossessing as it may seem on the surface, The Man Who has already made quite the tsunami splash in the British Isles — shifting more than six million units and earning almost unanimous raves from the typically prickly English music press. Standout single Why Does It Always Rain on Me? "suffers" from the same sort of Mersey-beat melancholia that made Rufus Wainwright's April Fools such a contagious and charming treat. Elsewhere, the Radiohead influence reaches its apex on the languid As You Are; Driftwood sounds like vintage, mid-'70s Bread; Luv's heavy-hearted harmonica sounds borrowed from the Hollies' He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother; and, like The Beatles' sweetly multilingual Michelle, the somber, late-night dirge The Last Laugh of the Laughter injects some flavorful français into its Fabergé-fragile soufflé.
Though unquestionably pleasant and pretty, The Man Who lacks the sort of passionate-yet-effortless epiphanies for which Radiohead and Oasis seem to have a natural knack. The better part of the problem can be traced to the album's almost mordantly monochromatic sonic palette. Color it gray. Color it beige. Color it a significant step forward for the four lads of Travis — but, alas, just a tad too mannered to qualify as a classic. ½
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box