Fran Healy - Wreckorder
Record Label: Rkyodisc
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
At this point, there's little to be written about Fran Healy that hasn't already been put to pen. Widely hailed by British critics as one of the country's contemporary masters, he's also revered here in the States. The reason for said praise is his decade-plus career with the venerable Scottish quartet Travis, which charted numerous singles, of those "Sing," "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?," and "Driftwood" to name a few.
More important than his singles and the critics praise are the testimonies from other musicians, most notably Artists such as Coldplay, Noel Gallagher, The Doves and Gomez, who have all cited Healy as a major influence. His debut album Wreckorder offers much of the same but goes a bit deeper and farther, making for a most rewarding listen.
The disc opens with the titanic "In the Morning," a shimmering piece of guitar pop that rises like a phoenix and never lets up. Its successor "Anything," is a timeless, acoustic hymnal which draws its energy from Healy's falsetto and his innate ability to harness age-old sentiments on love and lost without sounding trite.
On the Neko Case duet "Sing Me To Sleep," the tandem coasts over amiable melodies and a syncopated drum loop making the pairing seem almost natural. Case probably deserves much of the credit for her contributions, but truth be told, any other duet partner probably could have stumbled, and yet with these two seasoned pros the exact opposite happens.
Of the disc's first half, "Sing Me To Sleep," is easily one that's worth repeated listens. That's not to take anything away from the pensive "Fly in the Ointment," which bounces and struts with effortless whimsy, but after the power of "Sing Me to Sleep," it just doesn't do nearly as much as its predecessor.
Sir Paul McCartney makes an appearance on the eccentric waltz "As It Comes," as alien as anything Healy has written to date, but also an endearing look at nostalgia and foresight. McCartney's bass is not nearly as pronounced as it should be, but the song certainly has charm.
Lead single "Buttercups," follows and doesn't deviate too far from the Travis script. Like an extension of "Anything," the song wades in mid-tempo, jangle pop and is buttressed by Healy's impressionable vocals. To put it succinctly, it's as close to perfect as anything on the disc.
From there, it's one consistent offering after another. "Shadow Boxing," "Holiday," and "Rocking Chair," are all strong, with the latter being the most memorable. The playful melody of the pathos-laden "Moonshine," closes out the album with aplomb and makes heady material sound rather winsome.
In the end, Wreckorder is the sound of a songwriter firmly embodying the spirit of Britpop and testing himself. "Sing Me To Sleep," and "As It Comes," also point towards signs of maturation that were never seen in the Travis back catalog. Those very two tracks point towards the likelihood of a follow-up album being just as strong. Can we really ask for anything more? Oh Scotland, you are so very lucky.