Teenage Fanclub celebrates the mysterious maze of life
Teenage Fanclub has certainly mellowed out compared to their initial debut, but the band still delivers a phenomenal performance in Endless Arcade. Though key members like Gerard Love may be absent from the album, the group still sports a strong lineup of musicians. Now featuring Norman Blake (lead vocals), Raymond McGinley (lead guitar), Euros Childs (keys), Dave McGowan (bass) and Francis Macdonald (drums), Teenage Fanclub proves they’re still dedicated to harnessing its creative prowess in Endless Arcade.
Brimming with enigmatic concessions and an infectious upbeat spunk, each track on the album breaks the mold of the last. Every other song on the album was written by either Blake or McGinley, likely preventing the album from staling even after a couple of play-throughs. Ultimately the group managed to produce a riveting album despite the significant change in membership it witnessed, creating an alternative rock record on par with any of their previous work.
Throughout the album, Teenage Fanclub employs the electric use of the keyboard as played by its newest member Euros Childs. Whether it be the acrobatic strokes in “Warm Embrace” or the harpsichord-reminiscent sound in “The Sun Won’t Shine on Me,” Childs brilliantly sprinkles in the perfect amount of enthusiasm in every song using his keyboard. Even more comparatively solemn songs like “Come with Me” are given new life with the introduction of the keys. Though these keys would be too imposing given normal circumstances, Teenage Fanclub masterfully incorporates the lightness it exudes into the album without taking away from its other significant elements. This is what is so beautiful about Endless Arcade—timeless classic elements like the electric guitar or bass are given the center stage without any additional bells and whistles. “Home” features extended guitar and bass solos, the two instruments stealing the time typically reserved for a traditional chorus or vocals. This fracturing of formulaic, procedural songwriting serves as a stylistic hallmark on the album, culminating in a distinct sense of serenity often missing in the alternative rock scene.
While instrumentally, the scene created in nearly every song in the track is a tranquil one, both Blake and McGinley seem to lyrically include tense subject matter, providing an interesting mystery in the album. The aforementioned “Home,” for example, features Blake questioning: “sometimes wonder if ill ever be home again/ I just don’t know when I’ll open that door again,” planting the seeds for questions that will go unanswered regarding the line’s cryptic reference. Unanswered questions and the construction of mystery seem to be a motif in Endless Arcade, which is probably fitting given the album title. In “Living with You,” Blake sings: “I tried to reach you but you won’t pick up the telephone/ I’d like to know what’s on your mind,” referencing yet another circumstance of loose ends left untied. The resulting feeling is one of acceptance, created through the unification of solemn admissions and compassionate instrumentals.
Overall, Teenage Fanclub delivers a surprisingly compelling performance in Endless Arcade, especially when one considers the shakeup in membership the band experienced. Though their last album release was in 2016, it’s evident that Teenage Fanclub has remained dedicated to the mastery of their craft, creating an awesome record any fan of rock can enjoy.