[a]Travis[/a] bassist Dougie Payne pulled off a killer stunt at art school. He etched sheets of glass with “This Is Balanced” and when people walked in the room the glass came crashing down, exploding into a thousand potentially skin-slashing and artery-rupturing pieces, herding the punters into a corner where they quaked and cowered in absolute terror. Whoa! Yeah! Damien Hirst gnaw your heart out!
So what could be expected when Dougie turned to rock’n’roll? Rapture? Catharsis? A nerve-shredding adrenaline rush combined with life-changing intellectual meltdown? Music that sucker punches the overwhelmed and emotionally shattered punter in the heart, head, stomach and sex organs all the same time? Yes. Of course. At the very least. Anything less would be at best a category error and at worst a despicable betrayal.
But then [a]Travis[/a] singer Fran Healy tells us, “We just write nice, good songs, destined to be coming through the sound system in Pizza Express.”
If that’s not pedestrian enough, he adds: “So many bands are like artists standing in front of their paintings going, ‘Look at me, I did this!’ It’s like, ‘Get out of the way, I can’t see it.'”
Translation: we have no star quality. No charisma. No sex appeal. No chutzpah. Judge us only by the noise we make – for the sad and pathetic truth is that we have nothing else to offer.
Jesus! It would be so easy to despise [a]Travis[/a] without ever having heard a single note. It would be easier still to ignore them. But, hey, come on! Let’s be positive here. Because tonight [a]Travis[/a] give us an entire EP’s worth of vicious, challenging and life-affirming rock’n’roll magic.
They start low-slung and hungry, whooping and hollering through ‘Writing To Reach You’ like demented five-year-olds with the key to the Jaffa Cakes cupboard. Ages later they seem to peak with the Slade-like genius of ‘All I Want To Do Is Rock’, but ages later still they surpass themselves with a raging version of ‘secret’ album track ‘Blue Flashing Light’. And then they actually kiss the sky with a breathtakingly beautiful cover of Britney Spears‘ ‘Baby One More Time’. You can almost hear the glass breaking!
In between, though, there is nothing but pain. Unmitigated, dull, aching, pain. Vast deserts of appalling MOR semi-tunelessness. Lumbering, grass-chewing and utterly forgettable cod-anthems reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub at their most tediously mediocre. No, that’s cruel. Let’s say Texas, pre-Sharleen‘s ‘sexy’ haircut.
But that isn’t the worst of it. The true horror comes right at the end in the shape of the utterly execrable ‘Happy’. Jesus Christ! What an inutterably shit song! If that clanging little ripped-off Hollies riff doesn’t make you puke your pelvis up in disgust every time you’re forced to hear it then, please, see a doctor immediately.
And if that isn’t bad enough they then slap us in the face with the mock-Merseybeat monstrosity that is ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’. Fucking hell! Thom Yorke must be spinning in his grave! [a]Travis[/a], go and listen to ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ by Garbage and then promise us that you’ll never, ever go within a thousand miles of this subject matter ever again. Deal?
[a]Travis[/a] tonight prove two things. Firstly that they possess the potential – if edited, styled and produced properly – to become an at least half-decent Wet Wet Wet-style pop band. And secondly that we should all immediately and without delay stop tolerating these allegedly ‘credible’ little nothing bands – bands that lack vision, anger, ambition, politics, conviction, righteousness, idealism, fury, bile, balls, bottle, manifestos or, in fact, any fucking reason to exist in the first fucking place. Bands that consist merely of plodding, artisan musicians content to make (read it and shrug) “nice, good songs”.
If that’s all you want then [a]Travis[/a] are the band you deserve. You poor bastard. They’re the musical equivalent of a nice painting of a cute little kitten in a lacy frame. What a waste of fine education.