Good old Travis. Good old sensible Travis. For a while they had a reputation for doing exactly what you expected of them. So honest, so reliable, so steady, always taking the off-target accusations of being slightly dull in good humour. In the nicest possible sense, for a few years Travis were the Ned Flanders of the British guitar scene. They were pleasant, didn’t offend anybody, and no one could really have much of a major issue with them. Travis have always came across as fan friendly, sometimes even witty, and they wrote some very nice tunes, many of them to be found on 1999’s The Man Who.
The Man Who was not an overnight success, with the singles released from it taking many months to lodge in the collective conscious of music fans, but once they were there, they refused to budge. “Writing To Reach You” and “Turn” remain solid radio-friendly tunes that have aged well, “Driftwood” is my personal favourite Travis tune, and “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” helped them conquer a rain-sodden Glastonbury festival and remains Travis’s best singalong. The trouble is the rest of The Man Who is just a bit samey, and sort of fails to excite or offend on any level, instead just sort of hanging about in a not unpleasant manner until the next single trundles along.
Perhaps this unchallenging aspect of The Man Who is what helped Travis to thrive when British guitar bands were generally in the doldrums. People just found their music easy and pleasant to listen to and it made no unnecessary demands on its audience. The Man Who is a well recorded album, with acoustic guitars that are nicely strummed, electric guitars that chime and the rhythm section do the type of things that rhythm sections are supposed to do. Add to this the fact that Fran Healy could actually sing rather than bellow as so many of the Brit-pop ‘vocalists’ did, and you have a formula that shifts a lot of albums. Yes there were stupid comparisons to Radiohead, but that was more down to the fact that both bands shared the same producer, Nigel Godrich.
Twenty years later and The Man Who is still a solid album and there are many pleasant tunes to be found here. It may not be the most thrilling listen, but it’s almost impossible to object to either. It’s just Travis being solid, reliable and sensible. Which is exactly what many of us needed twenty years ago, and still need to this day. Good old Travis.