I am a committed American fan of Teenage Fanclub, which means that I belong to a very small but superior subgroup of people who truly understand what great pop music is all about. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on this one — maybe you’re too young to remember that Bandwagonesque was rated ahead of Nirvana’s Nevermind by Spin and other critics everywhere, or maybe you’ve never been to a used record store, where you can find unfairly rejected copies of Thirteen and Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain.
But the truth is that the three Scottish geniuses who form the core of Teenage Fanclub (Norman Blake, Gerard Love, and Raymond McGinley) are three of the greatest songwriters in the world, with three of the most beautiful voices in pop music, and a gift for avoiding the spotlight, at least here in the U.S. (Of course, we have our own perfect-pop band to ignore in Velvet Crush.) So this album is finally seeing the light of day over here after having been out in Europe for over a year.
And it’s absolutely amazing. But not at first. At first, all you’ll think is, “Oh, nice songs. Not too ambitious, kinda samey samey, but nice.” That’s what I thought, and I’m a big fan. But I forget — I always forget– that every Fannies album has taken time to grow on me. By the second or fifth time you hear this album, you notice that these songs do some weird things: Turtles-like “ba-ba-ba” backing vocals, found-sound introductions, funky guitar speakerbounce effects on “Dumb Dumb Dumb.”
By the time you listen to the record for the fifteenth time, you realize that “My Uptight Life,” with its repeated end-chorus of “All my life/I’ve been so uptight/Now it’s all all right” that goes on for three minutes, might be their crowning achievement. It’s a Zen exercise in listening and patience, and it’s stunning.
But so are the other eleven songs. Their harmonies are tight and exact, their lyrics as honest and scrutable as ever, and suddenly this record has grabbed your heart and won’t let go.
Thirsty Ear: http://www.thirstyear.com