Teenage Fan Club Turns 17
First it’s difficult
to believe that Teenage Fanclub has been around for 17 years and second it’s
even harder to believe that they have been so consistently good for that long.
The new album,
Man-Made, is their first since 2000s Howdy and marks the first
recorded entirely in the United States and the first ever released on their
own label, PeMa (US distribution is on Merge records). Comprised of Norman Blake,
Gerard Love, Francis Macdonald, and Raymond McGinley, Scotlands TFC continues
to pump out fresh, melodic pop with poignant lyrics. Man-Made, although
a traditional TFC-style album, incorporates a distinct American flavor, most
likely due to American producer, John McEntire, who has worked with Stereolab
and The High Llamas. When asked about recording outside the UK, guitarist Blake
said it wasnt their initial intention. The idea was to get him over
to Glasgow for a few weeks, says Blake, but John asked if wed
be interested in coming to Chicago. We came over in February and brought very
little equipment, basically one guitar each. He continues, We were
open to anything that was going to happen. We used amps that were lying around
the studio. They even borrowed an acoustic guitar from Wilcos Jeff
Tweedy, who stopped by one day.
Employing a rather unconventional engineering style, McEntire allowed TFC to
get back to the essentials and concentrate on strictly the music. In the
past, weve been involved in the mixing stage, making a lot of suggestions,
and probably getting on some nerves; but, with John we decided to go out for
a few hours, go for coffee or walk around and when wed come back, hed
play us the mix and wed be happy with it and move on to the next one,
says Blake, It was nice to have somebody do that.
The three talented songwriters in the band, Blake, Love, and McGinley, all have
their own unique styles with Love demonstrating a slightly harder edge. Time
Stops is a downbeat rocker with a sweet chorus and a wonderful string
and acoustic guitar bridge. His other penned songs range from the sultry Save
to the Byrds-like Born Under A Good Sign.
McGinleys contributions fall in the more melodic category with an emphasis
on vocal harmonies complementing simple instrumentation. Nowhere
follows a bouncy picked guitar line, Only With You begins and ends
with a beautiful piano etude, and Feels intro and bridge sound
like it could be off an Allman Brothers album.
Norman Blakes input, however, sets the tone of Man-Made with the opening
track, Its All In My Mind, a straight-forward ditty reminiscent
of early REM. Along those same lines comes Slow Fade, a fast-moving
number with a nifty wah-wah guitar solo. Cells could very well be
the best song on the album with a catchy hook that you may find yourself humming
later on in the day.
Teenage Fanclub are definitely a sum of their parts. I suppose that if youve
been together that long you know what works and what doesnt. The melodies
and harmonies seem effortless and the uncomplicated instrumentation balances
everything together. Its a pleasure to observe the level of consistency
this band has maintained over the past 17 years. While other groups phone
in, so to speak, their latest release, Teenage Fanclub continues to explore
new musical ground while retaining their core sound. Old fans will be ecstatic
and new fans will have a new favorite band. Heres to another
17 years boys. Yer greaaaaat laddies.