Fran Healy - Wreckorder

by Dan MacIntosh

Fran Healy's new album makes one think twice -- and maybe thrice -- about the whole purpose of a solo album. Healy, the voice of Travis, sounds almost exactly as he does with his regular band gig, and he could have just as easily saved these songs for the next group recording. But whether it's a Travis project or a Healy work, it's still quite good.

Healy is at his best on "As It Comes", a dark song about a relationship gone stale where Healy vocalizes it in his best world-weary voice. Its lyric brings to mind those couples you often see eating out at restaurants, where they never talk to each other at all -- the whole meal long. They stare at their plates; they follow the food on their forks, from table to mouth. Then they gaze off into space when there's nothing left to masticate. Tragic! Oh, and when they do find a few words to exchange, these verbalizations are more often than not mean-spirited. "You say I could be thinner/I say retract that remark." Check, please! "Holiday" is another song where two people fit together like hand in shoe. In other words, not at all. "This is the part where we say things we could never take back," Healy admits.

Come to think of it, there is sure a lot of relational disappointment running through this release. "Buttercups" has a nice flower name. Nice, right? It's nice, of course, until you realize that the girl wanted roses, instead. But because all the stores were closed, the man could only give her buttercups. Sorry, dude, not good enough.

Musically, this recording sometimes sounds more like a Crowded House album than a Travis disc. This is especially true on "Shadow Boxing" with its moody melody and repeating acoustic piano part. Healy even sounds a lot like Neil Finn, vocally. A few of this work's special guests include Neko Case, who sings a female part on the dark love song, "Sing Me to Sleep", and Paul McCartney, who adds a bass line to "As it Comes".

As with Travis, Healy's not the type of guy to ever bang you over the head with his songs. Instead, he'd rather they sneak up on you. So if you have the patience, Wreckorder has its subtle rewards, little by little.

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