Scottish quintet find themselves in a reflective mood for their 11th studio release.
As the title might indicate there is a sense of taking stock for the new album by Teenage Fanclub, perhaps that is not surprising as it is over thirty years since the band formed in Glasgow. Rather like catching up with an old friend, listening to ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ has the comfort of familiarity. Those jangling guitars, melodies with catchy hooks and harmonies are still all there. But as summer turns into autumn so those Teenage Fanclub hallmarks sound richer, bathed in a deeper light. With that changing of the season comes a hint of melancholy too but not in a despairing way, more a sense of acceptance, of moving on. ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is a deeply satisfying listen.
Throughout several changes of line-up over their three decades Teenage Fanclub’s writing has remained firmly in the hands of founders Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley. As honest as in their songwriting neither leaves any doubt as to where they are now. “These songs are definitely personal. You’re getting older, you’re going into the cupboard getting the black suit out more often”, said Blake. Yet he accepts that, describing their lives as being “pretty ordinary” which is what they write about.
As well as where they are personally, where the band made the album is deeply imprinted on ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’. Though Teenage Fanclub did the vocals at home in Glasgow, they accepted an offer to record everything else at Rockfield Studios. The only catch was they had only ten days. They “went for it” and that deadline stimulated a lot of new ideas. Out went the old writer as director, now all listened and played together bound by the trust of having known each other for so long. All this took place right at the end of the Wye Valley summer thus adding to that seasonal feel.
‘Foreign Land’ opens the album in the finest Teenage Fanclub style. A single note wrung through with feedback sounds very familiar but the acoustic riff that emerges blending into a swirl of harmony brings those youthful sounds right up to date. If reflectively mellow, there is also a determination to move on, “It’s time to move along/ And leave the past behind me”.
Those harmonies may have been born just outside Glasgow but their natural home sounds more Laurel Canyon. ‘Tired Of Being Alone’ adds some echoing folk to the mix, perhaps influenced by the environs of Rockfield? “Come with me, watch the seasons go/Summer nights with the sky aglow”. A slightly fuzzy electric guitar solo blows through bucolic harmonies and acoustic breezes. Already that notion of togetherness makes itself felt as drummer Francis Macdonald, bassist Dave McGowan and Euros Childs on keyboards become as one with the guitars and vocals of Blake and McGinley.
The theme of light is a recurring feature. ‘I Left A Light On’ sombrely looks back at a love gone forever. Atmospheric pop layers shine what might have been a guiding light but in the end reality prevailed. Similarly gently paced, ‘See The Light’ looks forward with hope, “Try/ To live without/ Without a doubt/ To see the light”. That hope for better times burns through ‘Back To The Light’, acoustic and electric riffs surge with life and love on the road as, “The lights come up/ We clear the stage and break it down/ We turn the key and motor out of town”.
Such musing about the past and future inevitably involves much introspection. Despite a jaunty piano line from Childs ‘Self Sedation’ has Norman turning to another Blake, “Some are born to endless night/ I’d say my namesake got that right”. McGinley looks beyond the harm caused by today’s increasing polarisation in ‘I Will Love You’. Keys and harmonies induce a trance that belies, “Until the bigots are gone/ After they apologise/ For all the harm that they’ve done”.
‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is a truism but we must hope Teenage Fanclub continue to create music for many years to come. These ten songs show how.