The Man Who Travis' second album opens with the sound of someone -- presumably singer and songwriter Fran Healy -- gently counting off before the musicians start playing.… The Man Who Travis' second album opens with the sound of someone -- presumably singer and songwriter Fran Healy -- gently counting off before the musicians start playing.… Travis Rock
Music Review

The Man Who (1999)

Travis, The Man Who

THE MEN WHO (l-r) Neil Primrose, Fran Healey, Dougie Payne, Andy Dunlop

EW's GRADE
A

Details Lead Performance: Travis; Genre: Rock

Travis' second album opens with the sound of someone -- presumably singer and songwriter Fran Healy -- gently counting off before the musicians start playing. Given the current, extravagant pop climate, it's an unexpectedly intimate gesture, and it makes for the perfect introduction to a majestic and very humane collection of post-hangover rock.

The Man Who shares a sensibility (and a producer) with Radiohead's shoe-gazer symphony ''OK Computer.'' As on the Radiohead album, the guitars and rhythm section -- and the occasional splash of background static -- meld into a muted wall of sound. But it's a wall made of fluffy, inviting cotton. The songs, from ''Writing to Reach You'' to the climactic ''Slide Show,'' have a smoothly rippling grace; the lulling lament ''Driftwood'' is particularly aptly named. Even the guitar solos sound more like forlorn cries for help than pointless displays of virtuosity.

With his disillusioned-choirboy delivery, Healy is very much the epitome of the earnest, sensitive tea sipper. He sneaks in a poke at another hugely popular band of Brits (''The radio is playing all the usual/And what's a Wonderwall anyway?''). But mostly, he wonders why it always rains on him, and in best mope-rock fashion, he's either unable to sleep, just waking up, or realizing he always wakes up alone. Released in the quartet's native Britain a year ago, ''The Man Who'' became a deserved sensation. In America, where rock continues to take steroids, it may not make the same impact. But that's no surprise: Travis kill us with their songs, but softly.

Originally posted Apr 03, 2000