Review : Teenage Fanclub - Shadows
PitchforkIn 2005, Teenage Fanclub sounded weary. And with good reason. The Glaswegian quartet had been shoved aside by two major labels-- first Geffen, then Sony-- and its longtime UK home, Creation Records, closed up shop entirely in 1999. By the time the group's ninth album, Man Made, finally arrived in 2005-- via the bands' own PeMa Records label in the UK and Merge in the U.S.-- is was noticeably unsettled. Each glistening Byrds-inspired harmony masked lyrics that pondered death, impermanence, and regret. "There is more to learn than I've aimed for/ So much under the sun I should play for/ Before I'm taken in," sang bassist Gerard Love, one of the group's three songwriters, on "Time Stops". It was a good record, but coming from a band that built its reputation on sugar sweet power-pop, it was a bit of a downer.
Fortunately, Shadows finds the band feeling a bit more hopeful. Album opener "Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything" begins with Love singing about feeling alive and ends with the band skipping through a cascade of angelic da-da-da's. He's not the only one feeling better, either. "Dark clouds are following you/ But they'll drift away/ I watched the night turning into a day," sings guitarist Norman Blake on "Dark Clouds".
Maybe they've just had more time to relax these days. At Teenage Fanclub's current clip-- two 12-song albums per decade-- the band's three principal songwriters need only crack out 1.7 decent tunes per year. The pressure for forward motion is off, too. Nobody is really looking for the group to undergo a major makeover, just to crank out a few dependable hooks. From that perspective, Shadows is a success. Blake's "Baby Lee", with its chiming open chords, is as sturdy a song as the band has ever delivered. Love's contributions are a little more ambitious. The lightly psychedelic "Into the City" ebbs and flows through tides of phased guitar into an outro of soaring Beach Boys-worthy harmonies. Guitarist Raymond McGinley closes the album out with the somber country-tinged "Today Never Ends"....full text
BbcTeenage Fanclub’s first album since 2005’s Man-Made, coming so soon after the death (in March) of Alex Chilton, has the warmth and poignancy of a tribute, even if writing and recording was all wrapped up by then. As with everything they’ve ever done, homage is paid here to the American “B” boys: The Beach Boys, Big Star and The Byrds. As they say, it’s too late to stop now. And besides, why mess with a winning formula?
That formula – gently strummed acoustic guitars, the occasional sunburst of electric noise, aching chord progressions and billowy harmonies worthy of CSN&Y – works pretty well on Shadows. On album opener Sometimes I Don’t Need to Believe in Anything, it works fabulously, the guitar thrum and crisp beat creating a sort of organic motorik pulse, before the heavens open and the chorus breaks through like sunshine after the rain. It is as great a track as any TFC have ever recorded and suggests that Shadows will be a Grand Prix, even a Bandwagonesque, of a tour de force.
It isn’t quite that good, that consistent. Baby Lee is predictable TFC fare, and The Fall is distinctly average. But fourth track Into the City is another goodie, its shimmery guitars recalling Roger McGuinn’s timeless flights, the gorgeous harmonies making you wonder what a Big Star album might have sounded like if Bell and Chilton didn’t hate each other’s guts....full text
GuardianThe eighth "proper" album from Teenage Fanclub delivers exactly what one expects: gentle, bittersweet guitar pop, which harks back to the 60s without descending into pastiche. Pick of the bunch this time out is The Fall, a meditation on ageing gracefully: "I light a fire underneath what I was/ I won't feel sad only warmed by the loss," McGinley sings in the song's coda, as guitars swell into bloom. The subject matter throughout reflects the band's actual age, rather than that implied by their name – even in Baby Lee, the most playful song on the album, Norman Blake begs not for wild nights, instead demanding: "Marry marry me, oh baby, now I am insistent." More than 20 years into their career, the Fanclub sound as if they could do this in their sleep, but their ability to deliver a quiet kind of joy is undiminished....full text
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