Since his rise to fame amidst critical claims of post-grunge influences and the zenith of his popular influence through the still thriving single, “Touch, Peel And Stand”, singer and songwriter Travis Meeks has grown and evolved to a level of composition beyond mere rock-and-roll or grunge. Unfortunately, he has somewhat inexplicably withdrawn from the auspices of critical acclaim that sheltered his ideas only fleetingly. While the work that followed this eponymous debut album, also referred to as The Yellow Album by many fans [this is how I shall refer to it from here on], would go above and beyond what can be seen here as an already potent expression, this album still stands as a unique, well-established reflection of Meeks’ identity, and continues to inspire fans new and old. Abandoned by the public eye, those who seek it out continue to discover something greater than the press ever noticed.
The Yellow Album is, at its heart, a soulful assortment of the pages from Meeks’ dim experiences in life. While there is an official backup band on The Yellow Album (which would be subsequently fired), Meeks takes all of the credit for the songwriting, and based on future albums that would show him working as a solo artist, rightly so. The dark and melancholic element of Days of the New’s music and lyrics are entirely Meeks’ own. It is not unfair to look at this album as an autobiography of the troubled artist.
Most of the songs take on themes of abandonment and loneliness, simultaneously condemning society at large for being careless or numb. The epic single “Shelf In The Room” is perhaps the capstone piece of the entire album, depicting the narrator as a trapped creature in need of catharsis and escape. Other songs, such as “The Down Town”, focus more the narrator’s surroundings, and as such, function a little more uptempo and aggressively. Much of the emotional expression of the music is through Meeks’ articulations on the acoustic guitar that is still so characteristic of his work. To date, I still have not heard another rock artist so able to express touching angst through a guitar solo, acoustic or electric. One listen to the beautiful phrasings of “Face Of The Earth”, “Whimsical”, and “Cling” ought to establish this. Meeks’ playing moves from soulful expression to near-floods of emotion, then back again throughout The Yellow Album.
While the other instrumental arrangements are often ignored, they are also a skillfully established part of Meeks’ expression. Meeks’ use of the bass as a purely “grounded” instrument has offended the sensibilities of some, but works well in this context as a solid foundation from which he is given room to fly. His use of the drums are, in my opinion, the most post-grunge part of this whole album, which gets tagged with too many unneeded comparisons to Pearl Jam and other artists of the early 90s. Meanwhile, his arrangement of layered guitar and vocals here are early murmurs of what he would become especially skilled at in his follow-up, Days of the New II (or The Green Album).
As an overall listening experience, this should appeal the most to fans of “dark” music. Meeks’ music is led by harsh male vocals and backed up by some of the most emotional, desperate lyrics this side of goth. In addition, fans of expressive lead guitar from many different genres should be able to appreciate this album’s liberal use of the acoustic guitar solo to get its point across. While Meeks went on to express himself in richer, more vibrant works, this is the root of it all, and stands to someday be recognized for the unique niche that it still holds in rock’s transition out of grunge and into more poignant territory.