Travis Morrison: Travistan

Travis Morrison
Barsuk Records

Admitting that your ex's new squeeze is a trade up requires you to surrender every last shred of dignity. But at least then you can say, Okay, I understand why you left me. That's still better than getting dumped for someone who's less attractive, less intelligent, and more socially awkward.

Former members of the Dismemberment Plan now find themselves in a similar situation. They lost that hunky frontman Travis Morrison, who bewitched fans with swiveling hips and a well-groomed appearance that was lost on the average touring Joe. Tongue twister lyrics spilled from his lips as the enamored indie kids stormed the stage. But the band decided to break up, and now Morrison is embarrassing himself with a stupid cow of a solo album called Travistan.

Once the master of spastic 12-sided storytelling, Morrison currently narrates in a more linear and far less dizzying manner. "Any Open Door" is so mellow and harmless it could be mistaken for vintage Semisonic. The frequent utterances of yeah that gave Morrison a chance to catch his breath between witty one-liners in the Dismemberment Plan just seem like filler here. Apparently, all those D Plan party songs have finally caught up with him, because he's now focused on mortality, naming one track "People Die" and peppering it with bongo drums and disheartened rhymes: "People die/La de da/It gives the day a certain je ne sais quoi." Still, his love of Top 40 club hits pokes through on "Change," the last remnant of his old band's fragmentary funk. Morrison details the plight of Moses, interrupting the saga with shouts of "Check ya pulse now!/It's heart attack time!" The song is a fleeting attempt to recapture his past hyperactivity; it's also one of the album's very few memorable moments.

Like so many solo projects, Travistan's disappointment hangs on the success of its predecessor and the idea that breakups should lead to bigger and better things. It's hard to believe that while seducing fans with that "Ice of Boston" line (you know, the one about pouring champagne over his naked body), Morrison was actually fantasizing about a four-part tribute to the presidents featured on U.S. currency. The sing-along simplicity of "Get Me Off This Coin" comes off as vaguely They Might Be Giants-ish, except that Morrison's campfire offering lacks both wit and charm. Sample lyric about slave fraternizer Jefferson: "I like my nations in constant revolution and my booty wide."

Oh, Travis. Couldn't you have left us for someone hot?

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