The thing that gets me about Hot Young Glaswegian Rockers Travis is that they've built their highly orchestrated American breakthrough on the backs of 15-year-old girls whose idea of high fashion is the Delia's catalog. When Good Feeling, the band's quite alright debut, was released in 1997, no one here (outside of pasty, cardigan-wearing Anglophiliac record-store clerks, and certainly not the Delia's contingent) gave a shit, not noticing that the band wasn't Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, or one of the other 5,000 British neo-traditionalist outfits making bank at home on the worldwide success upon which Oasis stumbled three years earlier. But then The Man Who, the band's swell sophomore effort, hit the U.K. like, well, Oasis, and Epic began its master plan to bring Travis to us Yanks.
But how? We are, after all, talking about a band with an early hit called "All I Want to Do Is Rock"--exactly a decade after decidedly unironic hair-metal left town and made room for somewhat ironic rap-metal. How to make American audiences--adolescent boys who buy records by husky guys in clown make-up and teenage girls who buy ones by buff guys in hair gel--spring for a quartet of nice guys making nice pop-rock? Enter first single "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?," a profoundly earnest chunk of cello-stung melancholia. And, more importantly, enter Fran Healy, Travis' cute-as-a-button lead singer. Seems the suits at Sony figured you get a guy in a turtleneck singing a song not about how much stuff sucks (or what you should suck) but instead about how beautifully grey and tragic and delicate it all is, put him in a video featuring the same, put them on the road with a (either really ironic or absolutely unironic, or both) cover of "...Baby One More Time," and boom! You've got yourself a genuine transatlantic gold mine.
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It's heartwarming, really, to think that it worked, if only because it usually doesn't. If you haven't looked lately, very little emotionally sound music exists on Billboard's most-wanted list. The bulk of what sells today does so on a scaffolding of extremes: "I love you," "I hate you," "I want to fuck you," "I want to kill you." But Travis simply raise their hand in a tentative wave, call you over and whisper that they just want to be around you for a little while. Or maybe a little while longer. And if the only ones listening are ponytailed post-pubescents? Baby, hit 'em one more time.