Thursday, January 11, 2007

Writing to Reach You

Song: Writing to Reach You
Artist: Travis
Album: The Man Who

Back in the Summer of 2004 I was vacationing in Provincetown, MA and was with some friends getting lunch at a place right on the water. As we sat there waiting for our food a song came on over the mediocre sound system and it immediately sounded familiar. After listening for a while I thought to myself “Oh… someone is covering Travis, who is it?” I had been a Travis fan for a while and while I was a tad disappointed with their latest album, thought they deserved more exposure in this country… and thought this other artist covering them might raise their profile a bit.

Well, that song I heard was in fact a pretty big hit, but it wasn’t a cover… it turned out to be an original by that band… Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” Once I got a hold of the song I was shocked by just how much they sounded like Travis, and shocked again to hear how big they were getting in their native England. Now, arguably, Travis was a bit of a copy-cat band as they sounded a lot like Oasis’ more mellow hits, but they wrote great songs, had two albums I consider essential listening, and were just all around harmlessly likable.

The band started out a bit more rocky, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland while at University, and moving to London when they became more serious about being a band. They released an EP and then their very well received debut album “Good Feeling.” But it wasn’t until the release of “The Man Who” in 1999 that the band blew up in Europe, spawned several hit singles, and toped many critic’s year-end best-of lists. Their third album, “The Invisible Band” continued in the same mellow breezy vein of “The Man Who,” and was arguably just as good. As mentioned, their last LP, 2003’s “12 Memories” was a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the last two records. It has some nice moments, but is inconsistent.

Unfortunately, it seems Keane came in right at the right time and took Travis’ crown in 2004 seeing their debut “Hopes and Fears,” becoming the second best selling album of the year. (Just behind the Scissor Sisters debut.) They were able to find moderate success here in the states and released a well received follow up last year. While Keane’s lead singer Tom Chaplin may have found himself in rehab late last year, it seemed they did the right thing and returned with a bolder sound on their sophomore record “Under the Iron Sea.” Travis did not, continuing to make the sort of dreamy mid-tempo Brit-rock that possibly just got a bit old.

In my opinion, Travis is the better band and wrote better records that Keane does. I like them alright, and really did like last years lead single “Is It Any Wonder?” (even thought it was a bit of a U2 knock off) and maybe that is the problem. Keane have taken other bands sound and in a way re-wrote them for their own purposes. But who’s having the last laugh?

Instead of highlighting one of their newer songs, I chose the first track off of “The Man Who” which sort of holds my basis for the Keane comparison. It’s a great song from a great album. If you dig it, and know nothing else of Travis, it might be best to pick up their best of “Singles” collection which came out in 2004. It’s a good career retrospective and includes all their hits. Sure you’ll miss some of the important album tracks found on their two best records, but for a passing fan, it’s a great way to get into them. I hope they return and blow Keane away! ;)


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