Admirers of the band Teenage Fanclub have had a long wait for the latest update from the masters of off kilter Jangle Alt. rock. Six years have passed since the band’s 2012 release Shadow. As time accumulated many feared that release would mark the last missive heard from the band. Thankfully on September 9 their long hiatus ends with the release of Here. Fans will not be disappointed as the ersatz comeback is filled with bittersweet, sweeping majestic sounds that are grounded at their core in harmonic Scottish goodness.
Teenage Fanclub was formed in Bellshill, Scotland in 1989. The band emerged from Glasgow’s C86 Scene and plugged into the Britpop movement at its crest. What made the band standout from their peers were their harmonic tendencies. Those tendencies produced a sound more like American bands such as The Beach Boys, The Byrds and Big Star rather than peers Oasis and Blur. From the beginning the band was extremely democratic in nature, with three of the members sharing songwriting duties and providing vocals for the songs each wrote. Teenage Fanclub is currently comprised of Norman Blake providing vocals and guitar, Raymond McGinley on vocals and lead guitar, Gerald Love on vocals and bass and on drums Francis Macdonald.
Teenage Fanclub released two noteworthy albums prior to their 1991 album Bandwagonesque, the release which gained them notice both commercially and critically. Unfortunately the follow up Thirteen actual set the band back and was a bit shambolic. Critics have blamed Thirteen for Teenage Fanclub’s inability to gain a foothold in the States. The band regained their momentum with their fifth album Grand Prix which landed them their first UK top 10 album placement. Throughout their lengthy career Teenage Fanclub have investigated various genres; initially starting with a more Grunge sound as they clad themselves in flannel while indulging in fuzzed up guitars. They then morphed into whip snap clever lads on the crawl in the Britpop genre. Whatever the styling of the era they have always made their sound unique by displaying their concern for harmony and offering vocals that are sonically crystalline. Those harmonic sensibilities ultimately ended up protecting them from the problems of being pigeonholed into any one genre and entering obsolesce.
The hiatus between albums has been length but Here is impressive and worth the wait. As with almost every release from Teenage Fanclub there is more clarity and less abstraction each time around. This release reflects where the members find themselves today; staring maturity and responsibility in the eye and not shying away from the emotions of everyday existence. There are numerous odes to love and relationships throughout the release. I’m In Love the kickoff selection is all about how great falling in love can be. The song is refreshing and sunlit with the band’s trademark jangle guitar providing simple but effective bounce. The song is welcoming and easy to love. Additional love songs on the album are; The Darkest Part of Night which is a more folk infused selection but again is a sweet love song on fidelity, I Have Nothing More to Say which contains fantastic chromatic keyboards and asks a lover to forgive past wrongs, and “With You” which cites how love can be the shield from life’s disappointments and stupidity. Other selections like Thin Air are loaded with scintillating harmonies and effortlessly beautiful guitar riffs while encouraging the listener to dream big and never let go. That sentiment is again extolled in “Hold On” which advises not to sweat the small stuff and the virtues of keeping things simple.
My favorite on “Here” is I Was Beautiful When I was Alive. This track is a dreamy rumination that seems to hover above the world and extol all its possibilities. The song has a hypnotic ending with the mantra lyrics “what are you going to do about it” referring to an individual’s response to life. It is a gentle song with no crass moments just enjoyable listening. Also noteworthy is The First Sight which is reminiscent of The Church’s “Metropolis” in both sonics and phrasing. This delicate song voices a desire to see truth and purity in life. The horns on the track along with an outstanding guitar hook make for a standout song. The final track Connected to Life is an earnest creation where the protagonist desires to see a beloved individual fully experience the joys of life and feel the zest of living. It is a delightful way to signoff on a transcendent release.
Teenage Fanclub with Here continues to follow their musical journey evoking yearning, emotion and mind opening introspection. There is a palpable level of maturity and effortless musicianship reflected on each track. The band members display a like minded telepathy in their play as they compliment each others songwriting. The style of Teenage Fanclub’s music is refreshing as it is a departure from most of what is available today. Here is an album that long time fans will welcome and new fans will enjoy.