In 1991, when Scottish band Teenage Fanclub first broke in No. America with their third album, Bandwagonesque, their sound was brimming with electric guitars turned up so they were humming on the edge of feeding back, brisk pop song rhythms with Beatlesque hooks and harmonies, and two strong singles in “Star Sign” and “The Concept.” Over the course of the three decades since, Teenage Fanclub’s sound has matured and mellowed in the direction of a 60’s influenced folk rock vibe, recognizable on their 2016 release Here, and here on their 11th full length studio effort.
Up until 2018, Teenage Fanclub had the consistency of three singer/songwriters, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley, and Gerard Love, trading off lead vocals and singing harmonies on each-other’s songs. Love has departed, and the two remaining singers have continued on with longtime drummer Francis Macdonald, Dave McGowan who’s moved from keys and guitars to bass, and new keyboard player Euros Childs. We hear the presence of Childs most clearly on the somewhat new wave feel of his synth solo on the album’s title track, but McGinley and Blake’s bright guitar tones and vocal harmonies still ring out with that folky 60’s rock sound of The Byrds, Fairport Convention, and a host of bands attempting to recreate that Lennon/McCartney magic.
Perhaps, “In Our Dreams” comes closest to connecting with the band’s 90’s energy, although the track would benefit from a decent guitar solo and less repetition of the chorus. On the disc opener, “Home,” Blake and McGinley play a lovely double lead guitar part in the middle, and there’s a lengthy solo at the end that nearly doubles the length of the song, but generally the energy here is much more restrained. Three more pop songs standout, “The Sun Won’t Shine On Me,” “Everything Is Falling Apart,” and “I’m More Inclined,” the first two hinting at the tentative, pensive attitude that feels like a real shift for a band that has tended toward positivity.
Some band names age better than others (see the Goo Goo Dolls), so it has to feel a bit weird for graying guys in their mid-50’s to have constant comparisons to their teenage heyday, but one has to assume their fanclub is aging gracefully with them, and this kinder, gentler approach still connects.
Key Tracks: “I’m More Inclined” / “In Our Dreams” / “The Sun Won’t Shine”
Artists With Similar Fire: The Byrds / America / Fairport Convention
Teenage Fanclub Review History: Here (2016)
-Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb