Teenage Fanclub – Here
I once heard someone compare Teenage Fanclub to the talking trees in The Lord of the Rings: slow moving giants who come out of the forest every few years to restore order.
Teenage Fanclub have been releasing classic guitar pop records since 1990. They were birthed out of the C86 scene in Glasgow when Norman Blake (vocals, guitar) spent some time in BMX Bandits, who in 1986 released a few seminal singles on Stephen Pastel’s 53rd and 3rd label. At the time, they shared the same fervent interest in jangly ’60s pop, fuzz pedals and reverb as most every band associated with or part of the C86 scene. Blake decided to go on his own and recruited Gerard Love, Raymond McGinley, and Brendan O’Hare. Teenage Fanclub, while still indulging in fuzz and jangle, leaned a little more toward the Neil Young side of ’60s pop and incorporated three part harmonies and folk leanings. Starting out as a noisy, chaotic guitar band with their debut A Catholic Education in 1990, they landed a record deal with Creation Records and released their breakthrough Bandwagonesque a year later, enlisting Don Fleming to produce the record. Long story short, they went on to release six more albums of truly angelic, harmony rich guitar pop and were namedropped by Kurt Cobain during their heyday in the early ’90s.
After a few underwhelming releases in 2005 and 2010, Here, their 10th album (if you count 1991’s weird, noise heavy, spray painted sleeved, wank off The King), finds the Fannies channeling much of what made 1997’s Songs from Northern Britain such a classic. Straight out of the gate, “I’m in Love” greets us with classic mid-90s Teenage Fanclub: melting chord changes, gorgeous harmonies, and a mid-tempo swagger that keeps interests from start to finish. The rest of the album sticks to this formula.
Teenage Fanclub is comprised of three songwriters: Blake, Love and McGinley. While the subtle differences of their songs can be difficult to distinguish to most casual listeners, it’s obvious to most that all three of these dudes distinctly know how to write a tune.
Spend some time with their back catalog and you catch on quick. You’ll be able to pick out the jerky chord changes of “The Darkest Part of the Night” and realize that Norman Blake has done that with success on Grand Prix and Howdy! Or you’ll realize that Gerard Love is probably saving his best songs for his Lightships project since it appears that he hasn’t really committed to a song since “Time Stops” was released on 2005’s Man-Made. On the other hand, you’ll notice that the McGinley songs on Here are some of his most solid. “With You” shows McGinley doing his best Harrison to Blake and Love’s Lennon/McCartney. It’s a mystical song that takes you on a slow journey of love that includes awesome lyrics like, “I will hide with you from sadness and bad philosophy.”
On Here they offer exactly what has made Teenage Fanclub such a reliable pop band. This is a warm, comfortable album full of beautiful, if not slightly safe, pop songs. It’s been six years since the Fannies came out of the forest with a new record. Let’s hope they come out sooner than that next time.