Travis is a Glaswegian quartet that got their start in the early 90s but they didn’t settle on a lineup or release their debut long player until 1997. And yet it wasn’t until 1999 that they really hit their stride. “The man who” was a game changer, paving the way for the sensitive melodies of Coldplay, Keane, and perhaps even Snow Patrol. It was a massive hit for the band and two years later, their third album “The invisible band” did much of the same and achieved similar successes.
I was still in Toronto in May 2001 when it was released. I was living in a smallish one-bedroom apartment with my cat Lucy in a low rise building in Roncesvalles village. The apartment itself was serviceable but I loved the neighbourhood. I was managing a tool rental store within a big box building supply store (since killed off by Home Depot) and had no idea that within a few months I’d be packing myself and my cat up and relocating four hours to the ENE with then-girlfriend/now-wife, Victoria. We had gone to see Travis perform live just the previous September at the Warehouse with my ex-roommate Ryan and his girlfriend at the time, Amanda. I remember Victoria napping in the lounge, in a room off to the side of the main performance space, while the opening band played, which was forgivable because the band was obviously forgettable. Travis, themselves, were great live and I am reasonably certain that they played a few tracks from their upcoming release.
I bought “The invisible band” on CD almost immediately upon release and track one, “Sing”, made an impression on me right from the start. It starts off with a little feedback, reminiscent of the hidden track that ended “The man who”. Then, the finger picking on the banjo begins and you’re thinking: “What is this?” And this is probably the impact the band was going for when lead guitarist Andy Dunlop traded in his axe for just this one song. This was years before Mumford and Son made it de rigueur to break out the banjo in pop songs so it was jarring. Yet it worked, possibly because he was just plucking at it like he would his guitar.
But this song isn’t just about the banjo. Fran Healy is singing, pleading with us all to “Sing”, not just by ourselves, in the shower or driving in the car, just sing it loud and clear. Forget our inhibitions and insecurities and just be ourselves. And “sing”, damn it.
I love the notion. And it does have a warming, cheering effect whenever I hear the song.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2001 list, click here.