Although Glaswegian band Travis first surfaced in 1997 declaring, "All I wanna do is rock" on their debut album, GOOD FEELING
, they've since been singled out by critics as the act most likely to save British rock precisely because their follow-up doesn't rock. Instead, THE MAN WHO sways, drifts, and comforts in a mildly melancholy fashion, sounding something like ten variations on Radiohead
's "Fake Plastic Trees
." Actually, vocalist Fran Healy sounds like a less tortured Thom Yorke, painting evocative portraits through the tone of his voice (the lyrics only color the pictures). But musically, Travis are much simpler than Radiohead, writing the equivalent of folk tunes compared to Yorke and co.'s classical compositions. Still, as artists from Bob Dylan
have proven time and again, the right three chords presented in the right way can move millions. And Travis know how to touch a chord, whether chiming reflectively on "Writing to Reach You," strumming plangently in "The Fear," or bobbing lazily on the string-inflected "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" which was a huge hit across Europe. Even if Travis can't duplicate their success in the States, THE MAN WHO will go down as one of the best English pop records of the year.