Craft Recordings Puts A Shine On Travis’s Good Feeling

September 26th, 1997 marks the release date of Travis’s debut effort Good Feeling. It’s also the day the group didn’t take the world by storm.

Which is not to say the album flopped. It sold nearly 40,000 copies. While by any stretch that’s not mediocre sales performance, it wasn’t enough for the band to maintain a chart position. Months later though the group finally found commercial success with a stripped down mix of “More Than Us,” a song originally appearing on the B-side of the “Good Feeling” single. Featuring Fran Healy’s Lennon-like vocals, it landed itself a spot in the UK top 20. Surely providing enough money and attention to carry onwards, the single still couldn’t deliver to the group stardom.

With time having passed and technology having changed, Good Feeling has developed a bit of a cult following. There are of course also the original fans who loved it right from the beginning. Now the album has new fans, younger ones, who appreciate the edginess and angst the album offers. Personally, I’m not sure what crowd I belong to, and I’ll tell you why.

My gripe with this album is that it’s got so much filler; by the end of the passion-fueled, gritty opener “All I Want To Do Is Rock”, the album is already on a downhill slope. “U16 Girls,” the album’s second track, isn’t unlistenable, but it’s uninteresting. The tune is catchy, with guitars and drums driving the song forward, but few have the desire in their music to hear about the immorality of underage relationships. The problem is real, but it’s uncomfortable to hear about in song. It’s a real let-down to go from the album’s primal opening to the sheer awkward nature of “make sure that she’s old enough, before you blow your mind.”

Unfortunately, it takes a little longer until things clear up. “The Line Is Fine” and “Good Feeling” are the worst of side one, possibly even the whole album. They’re lyrically unmemorable silly throwaways that define the oft used term, “filler.”

“Good Day To Die” is thankfully better, with lyrics now showing real metaphorical value. “‘Cause your head is a brick, and your heart is a football, and your eyes broken windows” all describe quite well a hard-headed, heartless monster. The song is powerful enough to frustrate, which I consider indicative of true writing talent.

“Midsummer Nights Dreamin’'' on the other hand, shows little writing talent. The song is a generic, simple, up-beat pop-rock number. It only significantly darkens near the end as the singer breaks down whilst repeatedly screaming “too much!” The expression of emotion there is exciting, but in all other aspects the song is a bore.

However, from here onwards, the album begins to shine. Most engaging are the slower ballads of the album, the first being “I Love You Anyways.” Fran Healy here sings of romance after he “forgot what I’d been living for.” If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while (which I hope you have), you’ll surely know by now that I’m a serious sucker for a love song. Even so, this goes beyond and is exemplary, yet doesn’t approach the creativity of “More Than Us.” The album version, having the orchestral backing sorely lacking from the single edition, evokes a stronger response than anything else on this album. Possibly George Harrison influenced in its energy, Healy questions the validity of his relationship, singing of how he’s “not really sure if this is love at all.” This questionative attitude manifests itself within the listener as feelings of sorrow and defeat, leaving you dead silent in your seat.

“Falling Down” and “Funny Thing” are two additional slow tunes but the topic is much darker than the others. In the former, Healy sings of how he “got a kick out of you,” but now he feels that “I’m falling down.” It’s a classy song of depressive overwhelm, perfectly composed with gentle drums and a gloomy piano accompaniment. The latter shows the singer equally broken, though now over a romantic interest. He displays his pain through description, mentioning how his partner is “funny all the time,” only to squash the idea, saying “it’s not funny anymore.”

The second side couldn’t all be slow though, and so we have two more rockers. “Happy” is just another example of thoughtless writing, but to a greater extent. Take the lyrics: “I’m so happy ‘cause you’re so happy, and I’m so happy ‘cause you’re so happy.” Seriously? This is plain tiresome.

I’m grateful for “Tied To The ‘90s.” Without it, the side wouldn’t have a single up-beat tune demonstrating any sense of quality. “Tied To The ‘90s” is essentially the band expressing their dissatisfaction with the times, specifically (and obviously) the ‘90s. They make clear that they’re “tired of the ‘90s, but we’re tied to the ‘90s.”

If you’re already familiar with the music, you’ve likely been waiting for this paragraph, where I discuss the quality of this reissue. Everybody’s in luck here, since Craft treats this music with great care, as they would anything else. The legendary Ted Jensen is responsible for mastering the record, which results in music that comes completely alive. The recording is spacious as can be, and timbrally sublime. The only area in which I’m dissatisfied is with the distant vocals, though that’s a mix issue, not a mastering issue. I don’t know of any plans for a remix either, so this is about as good as it gets.

Owners of original copies may have difficulty telling the jackets apart. Craft really has recreated this as best they can, reproducing the original’s matte finish cover and including an identical lyric inner. Everything about this screams respect to the artist’s original intentions and that’s wonderful.

I might anger a few fans with this review, seeing as how I’m not crazy about most of the rock this album presents. To that, what can I say? It’s all about being honest in these reviews, and truthfully speaking I’ll end up returning for the ballads and tolerating the rest. I can’t deny it though, when the album isn’t making me tired of the 90’s, it’s a real example of how tenderly one can deliver a message through music. For that alone, from me this reissue gets a stamp of approval, and those new to the group should consider buying it, if only for a few tunes.

(Nathan Zeller is a Beatles fanatic and budding audiophile found in Western Canada. Currently, he’s got his eyes glued to the periodic table, working through chemistry homework of course.)

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Tom L's picture

to have a highly successful career, selling a boatload of "product" in the UK and Europe, although they never really hit it big in the USA. They're still together. Not my cup of tea, their later releases are less rockin', more moody and very mainstream. In contrast to many other Scottish bands their country of origin is hardly apparent at all.

Rashers's picture

By Craft. “The Invisible Band “ 2001 - is a far superior record and close to impossible to find on vinyl (at least $100), and sold fairly well in th US and worldwide. Hopefully Craft will follow this release with that album. Their best, of course, was “The man who”.

Nathan Zeller's picture

Craft is still releasing more Travis records, the next one coming out in just a few days (unless I've got the date wrong). I haven't seen anything about a reissue of "The Invisible Band," but if they decide to keep going with their catalogue it's likely that it'll happen.

Tom L's picture

The Boy With No Name, Live at Glastonbury, Good Feeling and The Man Who. The latter is also available as a "deluxe box set offering the expanded album on two CDs and two LPs, bonus disc featuring 19 B-sides and live performance hand-selected by the band. The 12” x 12” lift-top box will also contain a 58-page commemorative photobook."