Record Review - 1 October 07 2004

During the decade that Travis Morrison fronted D.C.’s Dismemberment Plan, the band released four albums of consistently quirky, exciting, and dynamic indie rock. It’s unfortunate, then, that without the strong rhythm section and band input to balance out his more eccentric ideas, Morrison’s solo debut, Travistan, is a interminable mess. For the most part, the album alternates between upbeat, danceable rock songs and pensive, low-key ballads, but every track is marred by ostentatious amateurism.

Consider the redundant “Get Me Off of this Coin, Parts A-D.” The four one-minute parts are scattered over the course of the album, each sounding almost identical to the one before it. Similarly, “Born in ‘72” could be a decent song if it weren’t for the overbearing applause, pitch-shifted talking, computer blips and other annoyances. The entire album is like that. It’s an experiment in stream-of-consciousness songwriting gone horribly awry.

The most frustrating aspect of Travistan, however, is that there are really great moments in some of these songs. Musically, the final minute of “My Two Front Teeth, Pts. 2-3” is dark, haunting, and moving, even if Morrison tries his hardest to ruin it by borrowing lyrics from the holiday tune of the same name. “Any Open Door” is the album’s strongest tune, with just a hint of alt-country in the dusty snare, bouncing bass and vocal harmonies. But slogging through the 14 tracks that comprise Travistan, searching out the few high points feels frustratingly similar to exploring a copy of Where’s Waldo. It’s hardly worth it.

-- Cory D. Byrom