Music

Travis Morrison: Travistan

Zeth Lundy

Travis Morrison

Travistan

Label: Barsuk
US Release Date: 2004-09-28
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

You know that painful feeling of embarrassment you get when someone tries to be insightful by incorporating education into a "groovy" routine? Like, when a teacher narrates American History via a rap? You just want to contort your body into the fetal position and die, which is an admittedly odd reaction since you're not the one making a fool of yourself.

Such is the fate of Travis Morrison, ex-frontman for the much beloved Washington, D.C. emo outfit the Dismemberment Plan. Thankfully, Morrison doesn't drop rhymes on his solo debut Travistan, but he's that out-of-touch schoolmarm nonetheless. It happens early in "Change", a twitchy rocker in search of a melody that recounts the stories of Moses: "He says, 'Y'all coulda built a boat -- if anybody had the guts -- while I was up there talking to plants and growing my beard to my nuts!'"

I, for one, am flinching and running for cover beneath my gum-tagged desk. This is a record in unmerciful disarray. I'm talking the Bee Gees starring in Sgt. Pepper disarray. There should be a new section in record stores for that god-awful Sgt. Pepper movie, Joe Pesci's Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just for You, Jewel's book of poetry, and Travistan. I'd really like to address Morrison's album with more decorum and subtlety, but frankly, I'm left with no choice.

First offense: the proliferation of "Get Me Off This Coin" songs, short and clumsy presidential segues that pop up throughout the album like cockroaches. These lil' tunes all share the same ungodly non-melody and faux-lounge jazz progression. Lincoln sez, "My mind is a terrible thing baby / But the guy you got now is a hack." Cue the post-joke cymbal crash! Jefferson jokes, "I must have smoked a pound of Mary when they did that relief" and decides to "kick it at Monticello". Isn't learning fun, kids? Who'd like to kick it at Monticello for our upcoming field trip?

Second offense: stories and their supposed "lessons" that I could give a damn about. The karaoke stroll of "My Two Front Teeth, Parts 2 and 3", in addition to omitting Part 1 for the sake of intrigue, documents a sustained ass-whipping. "The ladies all sigh when you tell 'em how you didn't fight back," Morrison sings in a whine that has only gotten worse with age. "The whistling skills have improved, and I never did floss much." Should I be laughing here or am I supposed to nod knowingly at the irony of it all? Nothing can really top the No Shit! factor of "People Die": "People die, it's the facts / So there, I said it, now you can relax."

Throw up a little in your mouth yet? Third offense: the caged animal solidarity anthem "Song for the Orca". Yes, yes, someday the wild animals will break free of their shackles and eat the zookeepers. I'm sure the alligator, lion, pitbull, python, and ape will all be happy that you mentioned them in your song. Perhaps when an alligator starts his own record label, you could be the first artist signed to the roster?

This is quite literally as disappointing as records get, made all the more so by Morrison's solid resume with the Dismemberment Plan. If Travistan was a real place, I would strongly advise you not book a vacation there, or study abroad there, or even consider engaging in bi-lateral talks with its leader. Travistan is a colossal failure of the umpteenth degree; come to think of it, we'll probably have to create a new degree simply to label it correctly.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Film

Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?

Music

London Indie-Poppers the Motive Impress on "You" (premiere)

Southwest London's the Motive concoct catchy, indie-pop earworms with breezy melodies, jangly guitars, and hooky riffs, as on their latest single "You".

Books

Vigdis Hjorth's 'Long Live the Post Horn!' Breathes Life into Bureaucratic Anxiety

Vigdis Hjorth's Long Live the Post Horn! is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader.

Music

Konqistador and HanHan Team for Darkwave Hip-Hop on "Visaya"

Detroit-based electronic/industrial outfit, Konqistador team with Toronto hip-hopper HanHan for "Visaya", a song that blends darkwave and rap into an incendiary combination.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.