Fran Healy – Wreckorder (Ryko) CD review –
Healy is the lead singer for the Scottish band Travis. Since he handles the majority of his band’s songwriting, you’d expect his first solo outing to bear some resemblance to his group. And, it does: his understated singing is immediately recognizable, and Wreckorder is full of the same kind of gentle melodies that Healy has written through Travis’ 13-year career. But, that’s where the similarities end.
Instead of the songs being powered by jangly guitars that his band is famous for, most of the tracks on this disc tend to lean on acoustic accompaniment, whether it be guitar, piano or most notably, strings. Especially good in this environment is “Anything,” where Healy’s falsetto blends effortlessly into the strings that accompany it. But, it’s the heavy dose of those strings that lend a dark undertone to the disc, and his lyrics contribute to that feel.
There’s paranoia in the leadoff track, “In the Morning,” where Healy sings ‘I promise that I’ll leave you / if you tell me where you are.’ He’s joined by eclectic singer Neko Case on the sparse “Sing Me to Sleep.” Paul McCartney lends his bass to “As it Comes,” whose tale of a hopeless relationship is similar in spirit to “Eleanor Rigby.” Only “Holiday” has the familiar jangly guitars and is the most Travis-sounding of the batch. With Wreckorder, Healy has shown a darker, more fragile aspect to his persona. –Tony Peters