Travis – Twelve Memories

by Suw on April 7, 2004

I don't know what it is about heartbreak. Maybe it's just that it's so familiar. Strangely comfortable in the way that old, ill-fitting shoes are. You know that you should get rid of them, but the constant pain is at the very least a reminder that you are alive, because you can't feel pain when you're dead and feeling pain is better than feeling nothing at all.

Take me away, take me away
You said that you were gonna stay
But you’re always lying anyway
You’re gonna suffer if you don’t start breathing now

Now that I need you
You’re going away

Every day, sinking into quicksand
Follow me down the drain

– Quicksand

Twelve Memories, last year’s offering from Travis, has taken a while to impinge on my consciousness. No surprises there – it was released just after I went through a total life meltdown, plummeting through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs like a dead seagull. I had other things on my mind back in October, like how to retain sanity, how to put back together the remnants of my life (an ongoing project), how find a way forward.

Thus it was only last week, after regaining daily access to the wonderful XFM, a London indie radio station that I used to listen to all the time back when I lived in Reading, that I was reminded of what a wonderfully beautiful voice Fran Healy has. Suddenly, that was all I wanted to listen to. Fran. Travis. Nothing else.

But I'm fooling myself
I'm fooling myself
Cos you say you love me
And then you do it again, you do it again
You say your sorries
And then you do it again, you do it again

– Re-Offender

There's something about Twelve Memories, about the emotion in Fran Healy's voice, the way he sounds at times so vulnerable, so fragile, as if one touch would shatter him into pieces. I do believe Fran has never sounded like this before.

Watching it fall apart
Falling under your spell

– Re-Offender

There’s been a distinct progression from 97?s debut Good Feeling, back when Fran was one of the Chirpiest Men In Rock?, through the much more mature The Man Who of 99, and then 01?s gorgeous The Invisible Band, but I swear I’ve never heard him sound like this. There are still flashes of the old U16 Girls Fran, particularly in Peace The Fuck Out where Fran’s habit of swallowing final Ts takes me back seven years.

But on the whole, Travis have not only matured, they’ve developed and grown in a way that many bands these days just don’t, whether through inability or lack of opportunity. The results of this are clear: Twelve Memories is a beautiful album, by far Travis' best, which has subtlety, particularly in the swoonfully sparse use of piano and strings.

Fran's had his heart broken, (haven't we all?), and he lets it show in songs such as Re-Offender, Paperclips, and Quicksand. I can hear it in his voice, it's there as a richness, a depth, a tenderness. He wears his experiences like those old shoes, and the pinching pain that won’t go away translates into something I can hear, something I can feel, something that touches and changes me.

Slowly, deliberately, Fran makes his point.

I don't want to be like you anymore
I don't want to see your face at my door
And I'll never leave like you, that's for sure
I don't want to be like you anymore, anymore, anymore

Have a talk, decide
We get by, we’ll get by
And I won’t take this
No more sadness, no, no

– Paperclips

Twelve Memories is more than just a bloody trail of broken hearts, though. There’s political frustration, there’s confusion, there’s a ?mid-life krysis?, there’s mortality. Twelve vignettes, twelve snapshots of what was going through Fran’s mind at the time, twelve daydreams? or maybe nightmares.

The most yearnfully beautiful track on the album, the one that got under my skin last week and made me itch for more was Love Will Come Through, a song which manages to be both hopeful and tearful at once, yet not quite sad enough to be melancholy. It’s almost fearful, as if admitting that hope exists will destroy it.

So look up, take it away
Don't look down the mountain

So take me, don't leave me
Take me, don't leave me
Baby, love will come through
It's just waiting for you

– Love Will Come Through

I love a band that can write a good waltz, to sway in three-four as Fran’s voice swirls around me, takes me over, spirits me away. It’s bliss.

Elliott Smith used to write wonderful waltzes that gave me similar goosebumps, that same out-of-body feeling, that emotional physical high. I like that. Having that visceral reaction to music. At times, Travis remind me of Elliott. I don’t know why for the similarities are not obvious. Maybe it’s something in his voice, maybe it’s a chord change or a guitar lick. Or maybe it’s just the pained memories, seeping into my bloodstream, like Elliott’s used to.

I don’t wear old, worn out shoes anymore. When they blister my feet and cause me pain, I throw them away. I have something better to remind me that I’m ok. I have Twelve Memories.

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