Jst as it looks like we've lost another of our brave foot-soldiers to the AOR cannons, the corpse twitches, The Chords descend, [B]'The Line Is Fine'[/B] totters out as savage and sleazy as ever...


And thus the death knell of The Good Times tolls. You came along for an exuberant rock’n’roll riot but you just catch last orders, a lock-in of lost love laments. You came to raise a glass, yowl a ragged chorus and throw punches at your own reflection with your beshtest palsh [a]Travis[/a]: the last great British stompy Boozerock battalion, your gang. And you find they’ve sobered up, swept away the rough edges. Gone dad.

Watch and, for all the wrong reasons, weep. There is a screen of plasti-glass erected in front of the drum riser of the type never before seen on a British stage without a warped reflection of John Entwistle bobbing over it. There is a loud whooshing noise as if maudlin sub-[a]Texas[/a] newie ‘The Fear’ is being sucked into Nicky Wire‘s Dyson. And then there is Fran Healy – a man who once, quite unironically, leapt about shouting, [I]”I’m so happy ‘cos you’re so HAPPEEEE!”[/I] without the help of prescription drugs – sharing with us his new songs, all puffy-eyed, polished and genetically engineered to sell Nissan Micras. It’s the lack of grit in these new compositions that’s replaced the ‘is’ of ‘[a]Travis[/a]’ with ‘eling Wilburys’. The stench of fresh singing lessons hangs heavy, Fran warbling like a Get Your Act Together contestant where once he roared like he was gargling ferrets. He plays a lame flamenco ballad with an Epic-U-Like chorus called ‘Driftwood’, unconcerned that Ani DiFranco may sue. And most offensive of all, he’s reborn as a new prophet for Keeping It Real, an avatar to deadness. [I]”There ain’t no wonderwall to climb”[/I], he croons on the Richard Marx-ist ‘Slide Show’ before banging on about “that Gay Dad bollocks” and how “it’s not about us lookin’ good onstage or nutt’n. Their music is just a backdrop to…” To what, Fran? Glamour? Ambition? Tempo? Give us a break…

Maybe the success of the remix of ‘More Than Us’ turned their heads, beckoned them onto the thin black ice of Lake Maturity. Perhaps some Big Brother producer strapped them down and played them ‘This Is My Truth…’ on repeat until they were commercially ‘reprogrammed’. God knows they couldn’t have soldiered on forever playing that same (hold tight funsters, we’re about to get deep-down and technical on your ass) descending chord progression and howling like they’ve just got a spiked knee in the goolies, but did it have to come to this? To dead-eyed dirges like ‘She’s So Strange’, to the Peter Gabriel cod-funk of ‘Last Laugh Of The Laughter’? Those doe-eyed pop pups held down, savagely neutered and brainwashed into reciting the mantras ‘That Roddy Frame Was Grossly Underrated’ and ‘It’s The Tunes That Matter’ until the Cast fans come home? Taxi for [a]Travis[/a]! To the Acoustic Cafi, my man, and don’t spare the crap synthesised bagpipes!

Then, just as it looks like we’ve lost another of our brave foot-soldiers to the AOR cannons, the corpse twitches, The Chords descend, ‘The Line Is Fine’ totters out as savage and sleazy as ever. What’s more, new single ‘Writing To Reach You’ (subtitled, in a fairer world, ‘What If Rod Was One Of Us?’) manages to stir the odd loin and ‘Flowers In The Window’ is actually pretty ace, despite bearing an uncanny resemblance to James’ ‘She’s A Star’.

But it’s too little, too lacklustre, way too late. As the creaking King’s College lift carries us downwards, two fans bounce ecstatically from the walls. “Their new songs were wicked!” squeals one. “Yeah…” her mate nods, “but I can’t remember any of ’em…”

[a]Travis[/a] played 11 new songs tonight. Sometimes, it seems, The Tunes are not enough.