Teenage Fanclub & Jad Fair
Words of Wisdom and Hope
Jad Fair was one of new wave’s biggest weirdos way back in the late 1970s, and he’s still rocking, with and without his band Half Japanese. Teenage Fanclub is Scotland’s most perfect pop group, which is just another way of saying that they are the world’s most perfect pop group. Jad’s always better on his first outing with a band, and the Fannies have always had a soft spot in their hearts for fringe loonies and careericides like Alex Chilton and Gene Clark. So this record was pretty much inevitable.
I’m not sure what it says about me that I love this record so much. I know Jad’s wide-eyed innocence is probably mostly an act, but playing the madman pays off well for him here: we get lyrical snippets like “I’d let Godzilla step on my head/And I’d let a mummy chase me around and throw me in a dungeon/I’d let space aliens perform an autopsy on me/If I could just be near to you” (from “Near to You”) and “The writin’s on the wall/Not some kinda trash like your cousin wrote/Good writing, good words:/I feel fine” (from “I Feel Fine”). These are all songs by someone who loves love a little too much, but it’s okay: they’re funny and offbeat and sweet and bizarre and just really cool. And most of them mention Frankenstein, although I’m pretty sure he means Frankenstein’s monster, so that’s a plus. As for his vocal delivery, it’s Jonathan Richman on Loureedoids, but that’s not a bad thing in my book.
The Fannies turn out to be a perfect choice to back him up. They put all these lunatic ravings into a nice shiny context, from mandolin-skank on “Vampire’s Claw” and muted funk on “Secret Heart” to the Modern Lovers-style rawk pounding on the seven-minute “Crush on You.” This is what Jad Fair needed the whole time: a band that makes him sound like a strange human instead of a well-adjusted alien. They actually rock on a couple of these cuts; between this and Howdy! they’re really starting to remember that they started out loud and fast as well as beautiful and poppy.
I’m lovin’ this album like spinach-lentil soup, and I keep it around in case I’m attacked by vampires. Like Teenage Fanclub, I have surrendered to Jad and his strange view of the universe, and I feel fine.
Alternative Tentacles Records: http://www.alternativetentacles.com