If The Byrds, Neil Young and Big Star are lynchpins of Americana, then undoubtedly so are Teenage Fanclub, who distil the three so eloquently into their own sweet sound. For over thirty years (and counting) these plucky Scots have been making stone-cold killer jangly fuzzy, joyous music. They might be a bit too ‘indie’ or too ‘grunge’ for some people’s palates, but that would be to overlook a band with three fantastic songwriters, whose sound when blended together is so much greater than the sum of their parts.
Their best work is (arguably) that of the mid-1990s. “Grand Prix” (1995) was an absolute banger too, but for this writer, their subsequent album is a little more subtle, and better for it. ‘Aint That Enough’ (written by bass player Gerry Love), which was the lead single, is pure undiluted jangle joy. It’s summer condensed into a three-minute song. The harmonies take flight, higher and farther than McGuinn et al. ever ventured. The suite starts with ‘Start Again’, which is a Neil Young/Crazy Horse, cranked up fuzz ballad, but with the Fanclub’s Norman Blake (plus Ray McGinley & Love) much more capable of plotting a multi-layered melody than Neil’s pained tones could ever muster ( I’m not knocking Neil here).
Chief guitarist McGinley provided ‘Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From’, and it’s one of the standout tracks. Building from a strummed acoustic intro, with McGinley’s trademark choppy chord changes, into the ‘glockenspiel riff’ chorus and a fading, Young-esque guitar break outro. Ray’s voice is probably the least naturally tuneful of the classic Fanclub triumvirate, but it has a strained at the edges appeal which combines with his distinct writing style to make his songs ever recognisable.
Elsewhere ‘I Don’t Want Control Of You’ is a gentler, partner song to ‘Start Again’ and ‘Winter’ is more Norman Blake simple pop joy – three minutes songs, soaring harmonies, chiming guitars.‘ Mount Everest‘ is a heavy Crazy Horse stamp, but the vocals are again as light as air. Three writers, twelve tracks, not a second of filler. Summers were made for Teenage Fanclub: Teenage Fanclub were made for summer.
Great article for a great band.
Thank you Andrew. They certainly are a great band.
Spot-on! I recall one reviewer even dismissing this as a blatant Byrds rip-off (‘Songs from Western America more like!’), failing to grasp that this was partially the point and that the band went though gungier beginnings only to mature enough to embrace this breathtaking sunshine sound. I also think it highlights a sub-genre which is largely unrecognised, that of great harmony-laden Scottish pop-rock which began with late Marmalade, Blue, early Primal Scream, Cosmic Rough Riders and continues now with the wondeful Dropkick and The Boys With the Perpetual Nervousness. OK, they all wear their hearts on their collective sleeve. Why not? It’s a timeless fashion.
Can’t quibble with a single word there John.