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Quintessential Albums :: The Man Who (1999) :: Travis

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A Little History:

The Man Who is the second studio album from the Scottish band Travis. The album was released on May 24, 1999, becoming the album that gave the band international recognition.

The album was produced by Nigel Godrich and recorded at producer Mike Hedges’ chateau in France. The band continued recording at, among other studios, RAK Studios and Abbey Road Studios in London. The Man Who initially looked as though it would mirror the release of Good Feeling. Although it entered the charts at # 5, with little radio play of its singles, it quickly slipped down. Worse, many critics who had raved about the rocky Good Feeling rubbished the album for the band’s move into more melodic, melancholic material.

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However, when the album slipped as far as # 19, it stopped. Word of mouth and increasing radio play of the single Why Does It Always Rain on Me? increased awareness of the band and the album began to rise back up the charts. Then, when Travis took the stage to perform this song at the 1999 Glastonbury Festival, after being dry for several hours, it began to rain as soon as the first line was sung. The following day the story was all over the papers and television, and with word of mouth and increased radio play of this and the album’s other singles, The Man Who rose to # 1 on the British charts.

The album also eventually took Best Album at the 2000 BRIT Awards, with Travis being named Best Band. Music industry magazine Music Week awarded them the same honors, while at the Ivor Novello Awards, Travis took the Best Songwriter(s) and Best Contemporary Song Awards.

Travis followed the release of The Man Who with an extensive 237-gig world tour, including headlining the 2000 Glastonbury, T in the Park and V Festivals, and a US tour leg with Oasis. In Los Angeles, an appearance of the band at an in-store signing forced police to close Sunset Strip.

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The title “The Man Who” comes from the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by neurologist Oliver Sacks.

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The majority of songs for this album were written before Good Feeling was even released. Writing to Reach You, The Fear and Luv being penned around 1995/96, with As You Are, Turn and She’s So Strange dating back as far as 1993 and the early Glass Onion EP.

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What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

This album is loaded with emotion for me. That almost year in Salt Lake City, all that transpired there, and all that fell apart. I was partnered with someone whose addictions had begun to take the wheel and hit the gas pedal hard, his drinking was the worst it had ever been that almost year, worse than I would ever see it again. There was a room in the basement that he had claimed as his which held a chair he’d often pass out in, a beat-up boom box, a television and game console, mis-matched CD’s and cases, and empty party sized bourbon bottles (party of one) scattered everywhere.
Sometimes he would let me in. Other times he would push shut the door and scream at me from the other side to go away. That day he took off, threatening to walk miles to our home because I’d looked at him funny in a darkened movie theater, he had locked himself up in that room after, for what felt like days, to me.
I lost a baby that almost year. Soon after, his Mother died. Right before she did she screamed at him across the phone lines, blaming him for our lost baby. There were many things that almost year that I’d agree were his fault, but the baby, and his Mother’s death, were not any of those things.
He blamed himself, though, and drank even more.
This was one of the mis-matched CD’s littered on the floor of that basement room. After the losses he played it on repeat for weeks. Sometimes I would find him crying in there, to the songs. Sometimes I would find him staring off into nothing, eyes alcohol glazed, his depression on high tilt and gaining momentum. One night, though, I sat in there with him, cross-legged on the floor, as he tried to play along on his guitar. We sang-a-long to the album, from start to finish, together that night.
To tell the truth, I loved him and hated him that year, in equal parts. I think I blamed him for more than I should have, and I know that he drank more than he should have. Together, mixed up with my resentment, and his out of control behaviors, we were not a pretty picture.
Death, of all sorts, shadowed us that almost year.
I never told anyone how dark and painful that time was. Looking back now, I still have trouble thinking on it, much less articulating it, at all. But this album, in its entirity, brings it all back.
The songs, over the years, have softened their blow on me. Maybe that is forgiveness. Maybe that is closure. Maybe that is letting go. I’ve grown a fondness for the songs, and the bad memories, though not gone from me, are also linking arms with some of the good ones. I’ve actually grown to love the album, and consider it one of my favorites.
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Driftwood

“Home is where the heart is,
but your heart had to roam,
drifting over bridges,
never to return,
watching bridges burn.”

 2. Writing to Reach You

“Every day I wake up and it’s Sunday,
whatever’s in my head won’t go away,
the radio is playing all the usual,
and what’s a wonderwall anyway?”

3. Why Does it Always Rain on Me?

“Sunny days, where have you gone?
I get the strangest feeling you belong.”

4. Turn

“So where’s the stars?
Up in the sky.
And what’s the moon?
A big balloon.
We’ll never know unless we grow.”

5. Luv

“What’s so wrong?
Why the face so long?
Is it over?”

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