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To call most musicians "artists", particularly when most of them are the abominable children of crimes-to-society reality TV shows such as X-Factor, is an insult to people with actual skills. When it comes to Travis Meeks, though, erstwhile frontman of the band Days of the New, the title perhaps does not go far enough. Perhaps "craftsman" is more suitable for a man who makes such intricate, inventive music with so little care for the mainstream that it generally slips by unnoticed.
After their acoustic grunge-styled self-titled debut album (known by fans as "Yellow") sold 1.5 million copies off the back of a dying musical movement, Travis Meeks, still only 19, sacked the rest of the band, whom you didn't really feel he liked that much anyway, and got to work on the follow up.
In 1999, Days of the New (effectively Travis and whomever he gave the honour of working with him to) released their second self-titled album, known to fans as "Green". While maintaining the same acoustic-based structure as the first album, complete with Travis's baritone vocal delivery and mostly dark lyrics, it branched so far out into unknown musical territory that it alienated a lot of his old fans. Those that have stuck with Travis since Green and into its successor, "Red", and the wilderness years that have followed, are the hardcore, the select few that understand that the man they follow is an underappreciated musical genius.
Green, while containing Travis's trademark alternately tuned acoustic guitar, also incorporates various other musical instruments such as clarinet, violin and various horn instruments. It also uses sound effects, such as the wonderful galloping horses on the opening track, Flight Response.
And while Yellow had Travis as sole singer, Green has backing and twin lead vocals on several tracks provided by then college girl and now superstar and performer of some of the worst pop abominations known to music, none other than lead Pussycat Doll, Nicole Scherzinger. On most of the songs that she performs, including Take Me Back Then and Phobics of Tragedy, the effect is hypnotic.
This isn't a perfect album by any means. You get the impression that Travis had a bunch of money from sales of the first album to spend on production and he got stuck in. There are numerous odd interludes between some of the tracks, some which work, others which don't. Longfellow, for example, is an odd little Medieaval-style ditty that reminds me of the orchestral music in the movie Excalibur. Others, for example the interlude before Phobics of Tragedy, are near-unlistenable, with Travis screaming 'It's starting again!' over some building choral work by Nicole before it blends into the start of the song. The first minute or so is quite terrifying to listen to and a real skip track.
The songs, though, are extremely good. Tracks like The Real, Enemy and Flight Response show off Travis's virtuoso guitar playing, as well as his ear for a hook and for an interesting playout. It doesn't always work (I Think, for example, is ponderous and boring) but when it does its glorious.
This album came out in 1999. It was largely ignored in the UK, and while not as successful in the USA it did eventually sell 500,000 copies. If you liked Yellow you'll probably like this, as you will if you can appreciate world music and virtuoso talent. It's better and more varied than Yellow, but more difficult to appreciate. Once you do, you'll understand why Travis's hardcore fanbase treat him like a demi-god.
And if you buy it because you like Pussycat Dolls and because Nicole is on it, you'll hate it, but then if you like the Pussycat Dolls then you're an idiot and not really a fan of music anyway.
Complex, flawed genius.