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Wednesday, July 11, 2001

HIGH NOTES

'The Invisible Band': Travis


There used to be a time when the Brits made all the heavy rock, while the Yanks turned out winsome, countryish pop-rock. Now all the heavy stuff comes from the States, while the U.K. is reduced to turning out the slow-fi, introspective rock typified by Mogwai, Radiohead and Coldplay. This new state of affairs means that it is now OK for British men -- and, in Travis' case, even Scotsmen -- to have feelings in song.

After trying to jump on the Britpop bandwagon in 1997 with their excellent debut album, "Good Feeling," and missing, Travis decided to discard the rock swagger and just be themselves, which in singer/songwriter Fran Healy's case is a gentle, bittersweet, melodic genius with a common touch. 1999's "The Man Who" completely bypassed the music cognoscenti on its route to national ubiquity. "The Invisible Band" repeats the fresh, unaffected approach of its predecessor but with a stronger batch of fey, countryish, pop songs.

Creating clouds that are later dispersed by a gentle burst of sunshine appears to be the secret of Travis' success. Downbeat numbers like "Dear Diary" and "Afterglow," with its beautifully haunting guitar figure, create the shadows that are then illuminated by tracks like "Flowers in the Window" and "Follow the Light."

The best songs include both moods. In "Side," Healy sings, "The grass is always greener on the other side/Your neighbor's got a new car that you want to drive/When your time is running out you want to stay alive." Hardly profound but, set against Andy Dunlop's crying guitar, it's stirring stuff.



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