Jun 10, 2021
By Ian King
Travis’ debut album has a distinct identity in their decades-spanning catalog. Something of an oddity in a good way, there is more going on under the surface than its boldface first impression.
After a somewhat unremarkable gestation through the first half of the ’90s, the Glasgow band finally got their break via Andy MacDonald of Go! Discs, who put Good Feeling out on his then-new Independiente Records. The album would become the first significant release for the label, and showed a great upswing in the songwriting of frontman Fran Healy and the chemistry of guitarist Andy Dunlop, bassist Dougie Payne and drummer Neil Primrose. It received respectable attention in the UK, but only in modest amounts compared to what happened to The Man Who a couple years later. There are two factors that may have held Good Feeling back a bit: mainstream timing, and how deeply tongue-in-cheek Healy’s lyrical themes could get.
The sound Travis had honed was a fine fit for the Britpop scene, which would have helped them more a year or two earlier than it did in the early fall of 1997, right as the general public was realizing that Oasis’ Be Here Now was not what they were told it would be. Travis’ first single and Good Feeling’s opening track, “All I Want To Do Is Rock,” was big and melodic, with slow insistent verses and choruses that swelled into a final blowout. Between the song’s title and the fact that it did indeed rock, some might have missed its irony and nuance. That it was followed by the rollicking “U16 Girls,” a warning that could be misconstrued as a wink, gave an early impression different from the more sensitive singer/songwriter turn they would take soon after.
This was a little misleading because Healy was already very good at being a sensitive singer/songwriter, as Good Feeling goes on to reveal, especially in its second half as this vinyl reissue from Craft Recordings highlights. “I Love You Anyways” is a daydreaming and blissful blues, “More Than Us” and “Funny Thing” are heartfelt guitar-driven ballads, and “Falling Down” is fitting company in loneliness. Still, it’s the first half that really stands apart. Rarely if ever again would Healy let his voice loose like he does at the end of “Good Day to Die” and “All I Want To Do Is Rock,” to visceral effect. “Midsummer Nights Dreamin’” and “The Line Is Fine” paint in thick bright strokes.
Travis were also a little prescient with “Tied To The 90’s,” a jaunty singalong that pokes fun at instant nostalgia for an era then still in progress, and which pop culture continues to cling to. “Tied to the 90’s” should have aged poorly but now seems timely in its anticipation, kind of like The Man Who was in shaping the mellower post-Britpop mold, a mold which Travis would become tied to after the playful vigor of Good Feeling. (www.travisonline.com)
Author rating: 8/10
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