An Ideal Sunday Spin
Teenage Fanclub, the seasoned Scottish band that toured with the likes of Nirvana and has been parsed and pinned many a time by music journalists, has released their 11th studio album to date – Here. Like a steady significant other, Teenage Fanclub (which currently consists of Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, Gerard Love, Francis Macdonald and Dave McGowan) works within the boundaries they’ve set for themselves and are always there to come home to, showcasing a confidence and cadence that rarely changes and remains consistent and formidable. One can always expect certain things from Teenage Fanclub – soft guitars, buttery harmonies and contented lyricism sometimes paired with subtle strings and gauzy solos. For the listener who seeks outfits that are always pushing their musical boundaries, Teenage Fanclub might seem uninspired. However change for change sake (especially in the music industry) can be a ridiculous notion and one that quintet has obviously rejected. Working within a world of core strengths and delivering sound that is honed and meticulous, Teenage Fanclub is a veteran heavyweight and it’s hard not to love what they create.
Here was recorded at Vega Studio, Provence and at Raymond McGinley’s place in Pollokshields, Glasgow and mixed at Clouds Hill Recordings in Hamburg. The album begins with “I’m In Love,” which starts off immediate and uplifting, rich harmony floating over soft guitar strumming and a light organ trailing through the background, keeping up but quietly so. Lyrically, “I’m In Love” sounds like your typical tender moony-eyed track, with lines like “it feels good when you’re close to me – that’s enough, that’s enough” and “we will fade into history, I’m in love with your love.”
“Thin Air” maintains soft chord strumming with a distorted, fuzzier take and hits home like a classic rock song straight out of ’78. One of Teenage Fanclub’s biggest accomplishments is their successful time travel – the band geniunely sounds like their influential predessors, a difficult feat to manage in a sea of modern homage.
“Hold On” is sweet, floaty and very ’90s, with glimpses of early Radiohead, Apples in Stereo and Blur in the musicianship, played through a Stealers Wheel lens. “The Darkest Part Of The Night” continues in the gentle, heart tugging vein Here has very strictly clung to so far. Here straddles a crossroads between an open-road record and apologizing to your fiancé after the big fight that nearly got the wedding called off. It’s saccharine and urgent but without over sentimentality.
“I Was Beautiful When I Was Alive” is dreamy and spacier than previous tracks, with light high-hat hits in a steady stream that holds down humble guitar and effects, letting lyrics and delivery steal the show until the inevitable synth-interlude. “The First Sight” uses jewel-bright keys and floats along completely unaffected, like mid-sixties elevator music with some bustier moments happening as the song plods along.
“Live In The Moment” boasts a gorgeous pace and a stunning, warped and distorted guitar solo that fades out with a tinkling harp, lending a psychedelic tinge. “Steady State” follows and immediately cleanses the palette with a slow, starry take and a dose of existentialism – “wake my love, a steady state of life is calling.”
With twelve tracks that all tie neatly together, Here is a very pretty record with genuine emotion and seamless musicianship. Teenage Fanclub delivers something steadfast and well made to their fans every couple of years, making it clear that they’re mostly concerned with creating music that’s true to themselves and current devotees. There’s no acquisition here – Teenage Fanclub doesn’t need to make new friends and the modus operandi must be if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.