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Whether you like Travis frontman Fran Healy or not, his talent is unquestionable, tributes backed by numerous artists of serious stature, including the likes of the Gallagher's and Sir Paul McCartney who himself plays a cameo on 'As it Comes'. Once a musician has become so successful, the lure of a solo project is most often the next place to showcase their individual talent, whether it be for self satisfaction, or the need to wrap themselves in more glory, for Fran, and his first solo album 'Wreckorder' it feels much more like the former, and a chance to just fill time, rather than create a new stirring, which kind of agrees with his rather under the radar persona.
Wreckorder, sees Fran create a new world that he once threatened never to achieve, why after all would be bother?, and question his already highly regarded status amongst his peers, with such success in Travis, and a seamless list of hits, such as 'Why Does it Always rain on me', 'Sing', 'Driftwood' amongst others. However, feeling the time was right, and to chance his metal, the wile Scot pursued a new directive, which although not too dissimilar to his work with Travis, but yet a world away, with a more personal array of ponderous, emotionless tunes.
IN THE MORNING In the Morning kicks us off with a track that holds its momentum throughout, built around the feverish piano chords, that interplays with strings, intense drumming and an eerily evocative violin, its an evocative chase, layered and melodic, that gets the album moving nicely, thumbs up from me.
ANYTHINGis a fairly subtle acoustic track, enhanced by the powerful weaving strings that ghost around Healy's falsetto, the lightly changing pitch and delicate strummed riff, give warmth of support to this sentimentally charged offering. Its a fairly simple track, drawn together by a beautiful melody, all calm and serene, which with every listen improves, calm yet fairly powerful.
SING ME TO SLEEP Feathered, gentle and quite simply beautiful, a mixture of emotions portrayed through Fran's soothing, tender vocals. Harmonising effortlessly with Canadian country singer-songwriter Neko Case, adds to the romanticism felt through this simple painted track of sultry notions. Its simplicity is the key, and I adore this, from the very moment I heard it, synonymous with Fran's morbid, unemotional ways.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT completely changes tact, it's a funky little swagger of a track, but with dark overtones, it feels kind of disturbing, through Healy's morbidly downbeat tones. The swagger-y jaunt like strum, barely lifts from it's monotonously slow tempo that becomes a rather bland affair, maybe too simple and decaying.
AS IT COMES mixes up the blend, with a rather drab, darker sounding Healy almost singing under duress, it's quite poignant, sinister than what's gone on before it, strangely likeable too with the funky little bass line played by Sir Paul McCartney.
BUTTERCUPS lead single Buttercups, returns to the Travis mould, with Healy's strained, passionate tones, which flail around to a mid tempo acoustic strum, much bouncier, livelier track than its comrades, which possibly holds the key to why it was chosen to lead the album, although questionable in my opinion, as it gives no real indication to the albums overall stance. Still, it's fairly bold, daringly near joyous, lyrically tight, held together with a lovely melodic pulse.
SHADOW BOXING instrumentally and compositionally this holds all the right punches, the most complex track of the album, possibly. A jazzed up intro, fools us before the percussion take over, a feathered drum line, and an array of glistening strings, play into the piano's beautiful melody. The mid- tempo barely falters, as Healy shines with a measure of differing vocals. A thoughtful track, quite atmospheric, one you need to listen to over and over to appreciate I think, smooth and pretty.
HOLIDAY the glistening, shimmering accompaniment of an intro give a more Travis-esque feel again. Musically the verses are quite light and airy, a stripped back feel to the gentle strumming, which could easily be found on 'The Invisible band', but as we hit the rather bland, repetitive chorus it loses any appeal it held, its awkward, and shockingly poor, not helped at all by Healy's rather joyous approach, which doesn't work, one of the worst tracks off the album.
ROCKING CHAIR almost has an air of old fashioned country music, with its slowly strummed acoustic amble, a track that pulls hard on the emotional side, almost thought splitting. The morbidly slow lyrics engage Healy's better tones, endearing to say the least. The second bridge impacts, as a frontage of delicately positioned pretty strings are strangled, before a ridiculously beautiful fiddle takes the limelight. Musically I think this is a delight and fighting for the right to call my favourite of the album, but a track you need to give time to fully enjoy, like with many of the tracks here.
MOONSHINE to close out the album, comes a rather jaunty little number, Moonshine, good choice to close out the album, gives a warm send off, the dark mood has lifted temporarily in this happy swagger of repetitive lyrics. Soaked in strings once more, its delicate, but joyous, giving a little more contrast to the album.
Admittedly I own the back catalogue of Travis albums, however I've never been totally enamoured with their sound, its always been a love, hate relationship, hate because occasionally it borders becoming a little bland and too consistent. However, I was still intrigued enough to buy Fran Healy's first solo project.
The likes of Brandon Flowers, Serj Tankian amongst others recently have elected to fly away from the coup whilst releasing solo material, so you'd expect nothing different from a serious songwriter like Healy. Obviously elements will always be compared to the band's sound, and rightly so I suppose, its never going to totally escape him. I personally think this release has elements of Travis impaled, however it's structured far enough away to call it something fresh and different.
The album is fairly stripped and uncomplicated, you could race through the whole album with an acoustic guitar and voice if need be, the album feels very personal, reflective and broody, in keeping with Healy and indeed Travis's style. Although the mood is fairly dark and moody, it has enough light to keep you from phoning the Samaritans. Misery and emotion are two traits you would convey with Travis and they are not to distant here, but it obviously suits Healy's tone and what you would identify with him.
What the album lacks is anything sharp enough to jump out and hit you, nothing really feels like a hit single, or anything of anthemic proportions like in his Travis days. Although this is slightly disappointing, it kind of feels right to keep in the mood the album holds, its more a 40 minute amble of sentimental personal emotions for Healy and the listener.
I'd imagine the sound is more accomplished, its patterned with melodies, and littered throughout with gorgeous string sets, and the occasional use of the fiddle. Its far from ground breaking, or something that's going to set the world alight, but it is a nice blend of easy listening, sit back in your arm chair hits, a calming landscape of tunes to ponder over.
I think this has limited appeal, anyone interested in acoustic sets, or soothing relaxing songs then this could appeal, anyone wanted to shout, or jump about then move on, Travis fans will recognise and enjoy the sound I'm sure, and largely parts of the Indie culture should welcome certain aspects the album achieves.
Overall, Its kind of what I expected a mix-mash of tracks some I like, 'Sing me to Sleep' and 'Rocking Chair' but plenty I'm not that in favour of, and in all honesty its not the type of album id listen to over and over, only when the right mood selects, otherwise it will be happily gathering dust, until the yearly inch is over.
Amazon priced at £7.93 or for the special edition of £8.99 which only holds one extra track, so rather pointless when you can download it for less. Personally I'd wait for the price to come down, as you may be disappointed, or download a few of the tracks I've highlighted and see what you think. Good, but no cigar!