Tuesday, May 15, 2007

album of the day

Songs From Northern Britain by Teenage Fanclub.

Aaahhh, the Fannies. There's something very warm and cuddly and comforting about them that just brings a big warm goofy smile to the face. It's perhaps stetching a point a bit to compare them to the Beatles, but there is a sense in which they are similar - three main songwriters (Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerry Love) who each sing their own songs. And that's the key to their albums, really - if you get one where all three are on form, then you're in for a treat. To give an example, their most recent album, Man-Made, had some great Norman Blake songs, but Gerry Love's contributions were a bit uninspired. And it's Gerry Love who is the key to the whole band, really; most of the lead-off singles (Radio from Thirteen, Sparky's Dream from Grand Prix, Ain't That Enough here) were his. It was mixed a bit weird as well; the glorious three-part harmonies were buried in the mix for some reason.

Anyway - this one is a cracker, all three being on top form. The only Fannies album which is better is its immediate predecessor Grand Prix, but it's a close-run thing. You've got Norman Blake's strumalong numbers like Start Again, I Don't Want Control Of You and Winter, Raymond McGinley's slightly more twisted rock numbers like It's A Bad World, Planets and I Don't Care, and Gerry Love's Byrds-y janglers like Ain't That Enough, Take The Long Way Round (which sounds like the best and catchiest bits of about 7 or 8 other tunes all spliced together) and Mount Everest (which is very reminiscent of Gene Clark from Thirteen, as well as other slow-building guitar epics like Neil Young's Cortez The Killer).

It's a constant source of amazement to me that the band weren't hugely successful; in fact this album was pretty much the high-point of their career, commercially (it reached #3 in the UK charts) - it's even more galling that the unforgivably bland and weedy Travis, peddling a far greyer and less interesting version of the Teenage Fanclub sound, were, for a while at least, massively successful.

I remain hopeful that there's more to come from the boys from Belshill; certainly they remain a hugely entertaining live act. I'm pretty sure that Teenage Fanclub and R.E.M. are the only two bands I've ever paid money to go and see more than once (I'm excluding free-for-alls like Glastonbury here): R.E.M. at Wembley Arena in 1990 and at Cardiff Arms Park in 1994, and Teenage Fanclub at the Anson Rooms in Bristol in 1992 and again in 2001.


Anonymous said...

"MORETO COME" !!! ???? gET THE recent "MAN-MADE" made in Chicago a couple of years back with Tortoises John McEntyre.


electrichalibut said...

Read it again and you'll see I mention Man-Made in the first paragraph. Some good songs, but the vocals are buried in the mix - very frustrating.