Back in late 90s, rock music was reinventing itself (as it is constantly doing), somewhere between lounge music, electronic experiments as grunge days we’re close to be over. Morcheeba, Amon Tobin and St-Germain were played against Nine Inch Nails and, yeah… Bush x and Smashing Pumpkins. A new style was emerging with bands like Radiohead, Supergrass and Travis that eventually paved the way to Coldplay’s huge success: the emotional rock. Or emo rock, as we call it in cooler fashion.

In 1999, Scottish band Travis produced this superb album called “The Man Who” which materialized the need to have electric rock songs share deep emotions. Led by the beautiful voice of Fran Healy and featuring great songwriting abilities, Travis’ guitarist Andy Dunlop would blend lively acoustic guitars (The Last Laugh of the Laughter, which includes a few lines in French) and clean sounding electric guitars (Writing to Reach You).

Travis picked up where Radiohead had left on their early albums (think “The Bends”, on The Fear) and continued exploring these moments where lots of emotions could be transmitted by a soft beautiful voice over strong guitars. Man, this band can lift your soul with a few lines (Turn). Coldplay would eventually claim that spot a few years later. It is reported that “Coldplay’s Chris Martin has called himself “a poor man’s Fran Healy”, while saying that Travis “invented” Coldplay “and lots of others”. Quite a tribute.

Coldplay played a bit of Travis’ hit, live.

 

Fran Healy wasn’t as sad as Elliott Smith nor Vic Chesnutt, but he had – in these years at least – way more soul than the Oasis brothers and other English pop rock artists. I remember playing the marvelous song Why Does It Always Rain On Me at a private party where I was DJ’ing in the late 90s where one of the guys, after slow dancing with his girlfriend told me “wow, this guy has soul”. I couldn’t agree more. Another great moment, à la Radiohead, can be heard on As You Are, a soft song that slowly becomes an intense rocker.

 

The story of Travis goes back to 1991, when the Glasgow band Glass Onion, with brothers Geoff and Chris Martyn (funnily enough) on bass and keyboards, was looking for a new lead singer and found Healy he enrolled at The Glasgow School of Art. They had a hard time finding their own sound, and it took them years to please the record industry. They finally recorded “Good Feeling” in 1997, an album that was produced by Steve Lillywhite, who had worked with U2, Morrissey, XTC and many others.

Nigel Godrich – of Radiohead fame – produced “The Man Who”, the band second album that got a lot more attention, worldwide. The legend has it that when the band started to sing their single Why Does It Always Rain On Me, it actually started to rain heavily on them at the 1999 Glastonbury festival, a coincidence the papers jumped on, helping the band getting heard even more. Some of the songs on “The Man Who” such as As You Are, Turn and She’s So Strange date back as far as 1993 and the early Glass Onion EP.

Their next album “The Invisible Band” (2001, again produced by Godrich) included the summer hit Sing, but afterwards, the band encountered many problems: drummer Neil Primrose was severely injured in a swimming accident, they almost split… and Coldplay emerged as the new “sensible guys that could rock”. Travis has continued their path, releasing 5 albums, “Everything at Once” being the most recent one, in 2016.

 

Little trivia from their Wikipedia page: The band named themselves after the Harry Dean Stanton character Travis Henderson from the film Paris, Texas, by Wim Wenders. Another great music soundtrack, by the way, signed by guitar ace Ry Cooder, a few years before he produced the Buena Vista Social Club album with Cuban music veterans.

TRAVIS
The Man Who
(Sony, 1999)

-Genre: emo pop rock
-In the same genre as early Radiohead, The Darling Demaes, Coldplay

Follow the band via their Facebook page
Listen to videos on the band’s YouTube channel

 

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier
Fondateur et rédacteur en chef
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Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 4 500 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Nicolas a publié "Les perles rares et les grands crus de la musique" en janvier 2013, un ouvrage de 1250 pages en deux tomes.