Thursday, 12 June 2008

TRAVIS: Flowers In The Window

My friend terms it "ambushed by unexpected emotion" and it happened the other night, while listening to the radio. I've never been crazy about Travis - despite the comedy Radiohead of "All I Wanna Do Is Rock," they have never been the sort of band that one is supposed to go crazy about - but apart from "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" being played 600 times an hour on national radio I've never hated them either; a good and (oh, dear) solid Glasgow band into whom I bumped every now and then with a hurried hello.

But I did recall "Flowers In The Window" as being a special song, to do with the life I used to live, even if I couldn't quite place the reason or the timescale - was it eight? nine? TEN years ago? Then I checked to remind myself when The Invisible Band was released and I froze - April 2001. Near the end.

"When I first held you I was cold.

A melting snowman, I was told.

But there was no one there to hold

Before I swore that I would be alone forevermore"

I didn't bother too much with that part; it was the slowly joyful clang of the chorus which got me, the "wow, look at you now" part, the idyllic Junior Campbell chord changes (since at their best Travis do remind me of "Reflections"-period Marmalade). The song seemed to echo more than agreeably a newly found peace and happiness; we were happy all right, the happiest we had been for a long time, we had plans, and if it wasn't for that annoying bloody cough we could get on with them.

You can imagine how, in the ensuing few years, I dared not go near the song, as with so much other 2001 music, but especially not that song. Eventually happiness returned, renewed, but still I was not much inclined to revisit Travis; there were too many other exciting things going on. So hearing it on the radio the other night was the first time I'd found myself listening to it for some seven years (and, as ever, sometimes it seems like seven minutes, at other times like seven centuries) - and it hit me anew, and renewed.

Beginning with a foursquare foot stamp, the gentle petals of the song fall into place, Fran Healy maybe amazed by discovering what he never knew, or refused to acknowledge, he had in him; thus the cruciality of the "wow" and the courtliness of "such a lovely day" with its indications towards surviving into old age. Healy can sing lines like "I'm here to help you with the load" and make you believe him - that plaintively awkward Glaswegian counter-tenor - and furthermore, the lines "You are one in a million/And I love you so" sound as newly sprung a language as Esperanto.

"So now we're here and now it's fine,
So far away from there...
And there is
time, time, TIME!"

That triple time is the heart of the song, as quietly embracing as the three "times" sung in successive verses of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?," every one from a different perspective - Fran STILL can't believe he can help another human being and make her happy - but it's happening and all they have do now is plant the seeds and "watch the flowers grow" with a final, graceful thanks to the sky before bowing out with the most plaintive of "Bohemian Rhapsody" gongs (producer Nigel Godrich just KNOWS). And so I looked out of my - sorry, OUR - new front room window, and saw the pink flowers growing in the windowbox and...well, some emotions are too private even for here, but I don't think I need to spell it out. The past righted yet again, in the finest of detail. The tears were those of joy. Joy, joy, JOY.