TEENAGE FANCLUB

Sun­shine har­monies and chim­ing gui­tars: the Scots’ golden pe­riod.

Q (UK) - - Contents -

The Scots’ golden pe­riod repack­aged.

TEENAGE FANCLUB

BANDWAGONESQUE ★★★★ THIR­TEEN ★★ GRAND PRIX ★★★★ SONGS FROM NORTH­ERN BRI­TAIN ★★★★

HOWDY! ★★★ SONY, OUT 10 AUGUST When Teenage Fanclub emerged in 1990, their scuzzy, Di­nosaur Jr-style noise-rock earned them an ironic rep­u­ta­tion as the best Amer­i­can band in Scot­land. Soon, they were the most vogu­ish Scot­tish band in Amer­ica, pur­sued by a small army of ma­jor record com­pany A&R scouts. Back in Bri­tain, their C86-era Glaswe­gian her­itage (The Vase­lines, BMX Ban­dits, Soup Dragons) made them an ideal fit for Alan McGee’s Cre­ation la­bel. Th­ese five reis­sued al­bums – each con­tain­ing a bonus seven-inch sin­gle – tell the story of what hap­pened next. It’s a story of chim­ing gui­tars, sun­shine har­monies, tender bal­lads and heart-on-sleeve homages, all divvied up demo­crat­i­cally be­tween the front­line trio that still leads Teenage Fanclub to­day: Nor­man Blake (gui­tar, vo­cals), Ray­mond McGin­ley (gui­tar, vo­cals) and Gerry Love (bass, vo­cals). Three less cal­cu­lat­ing in­di­vid­u­als it would be dif­fi­cult to imag­ine, but the 2011 film Young Adult showed how the Fanclub’s mu­sic could break down the emo­tional de­fences and get un­der a gen­er­a­tion’s skin. In a key scene, Char­l­ize Theron’s char­ac­ter ob­ses­sively re­plays the song (The Con­cept, from Bandwagonesque) that re­minds her of her highs­chool boyfriend. Over the decades, Blake, McGin­ley and Love have writ­ten plau­si­bly and plain­tively about how to be a man, a boyfriend, a hus­band, a fa­ther. And even if, like Theron in Young Adult, you’re none of the four, the sim­ple, re­lat­able phrases and hooks (“I didn’t want to hurt you, oh yeah”) have a way of in­fil­trat­ing your di­a­log­i­cal self and haunt­ing your past, present and fu­ture. The stand­out Teenage Fanclub al­bums are Bandwagonesque ( 1991), Grand Prix ( 1995) and Songs From North­ern Bri­tain ( 1997), cov­er­ing a six-year pe­riod

that saw shoegaze and Brit­pop come and go with­out leav­ing a foot­print on their proudly Amer­i­can­ised sound. Bandwagonesque, as well as ab­sorb­ing grunge in­flu­ences, took as its tem­plate the 1970s Memphis power-pop group Big Star, whose dy­namic riffs and sweet har­monies had made them cult heroes among the Cre­ation crowd. Ut­terly smit­ten, they made parts of Bandwagonesque a flat-out Big Star im­i­ta­tion; spot­ting their sincerity, US rock jour­nals lauded the al­bum, which re­mains hugely en­joy­able, while fel­low mu­si­cians (in­clud­ing early-’ 90s tastemaker, Kurt Cobain) fêted the Fanclub from Lon­don to Seattle. Grand Prix, a re­turn to form af­ter the dis­ap­point­ingly dreary Thir­teen ( 1993), swapped Big Star for The Byrds, roar­ing out of the speak­ers like The Bells Of Rhym­ney cat­a­pulted into the Oa­sis age. It’s the per­fect Fanclub al­bum in many ways. All three writ­ers con­trib­ute ex­cel­lent tunes and sen­sa­tional har­monies, and when you put it all to­gether the emo­tional scope goes from eu­pho­ria (Sparky’s Dream) to melan­cho­lia (Mel­low Doubt) to com­i­cally ex­as­per­ated sel­f­re­proach (Verisimil­i­tude). Blake and McGin­ley, in par­tic­u­lar, have never shied away from ad­mit­ting how hard they find it to ex­press their true feel­ings to the ones who need to hear them most. Songs From North­ern Bri­tain – pro­duced, like Grand Prix, by the Amer­i­can David Bianco – was an­other im­pres­sive LP, a crunchy, mod­ern Byrd­sian ru­mi­na­tion on the haz­ards of ro­mance in the sum­mer of OK Com­puter and Blair’s Labour land­slide. But more than three years elapsed be­fore the next one, the sub­dued, be­low-par Howdy!, and the band’s LP re­lease sched­ule has since slowed to a trickle. A sign, per­haps, that Teenage Fanclub were now think­ing of ways to pre­serve their re­la­tion­ships, rather than por­ing over them and pin­ing for them in bit­ter­sweet song. DAVID CA­VANAGH Lis­ten To: The Con­cept | Star Sign | Gene Clark | Sparky’s Dream | Ain’t That Enough

Teenage kicks: the Fan­nies’ (from left) Bandwagonesque ( 1991), Thir­teen ( 1993), Grand Prix ( 1995), Songs... ( 1997), Howdy! ( 2000).

Teenage Fanclub (from left, Ray­mond McGin­ley, Nor­man Blake, Bren­dan O’Hare, Gerry Love) in 1992: “their mu­sic could break down the emo­tional de­fences and get un­der a gen­er­a­tion’s skin.”

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