Teenage Fanclub are another one of those bands who have never quite made the big time despite their obvious merits, being overshadowed by less-talented but ultimately more publicity hungry contemporaries. Critics label them as predictable, derivative, uninteresting - ironic coming from those who labelled bands like Oasis and Suede as the saviours of British music. And yet, these purveyors of near-perfect pop just don't seem to care - all that matters to them is their continuing output of glorious music, produced with the kind of consistency few rivals can match.
'Songs from Northern Britain' might well be regarded as a summary of everything that Teenage Fanclub stand for: eternally optimistic lyrics, uplifting melodies, soaring vocal harmonies all blended together into twelve irresistable tracks. From the moment the band's first jangling guitar chords in top 20 single 'Ain't That Enough' hit you until the final notes of 'Speed of Light' fade away, you are carried away to another place where nothing else really seems to matter, only that the music keeps on playing. It's only when you find yourself humming the tunes days later that you realise just how special these songs really are.
It's difficult, if not impossible, to pick out highlights, but Norman Blake's 'I Don't Want Control of You' with its sublime vocal harmonies overlying wave after wave of crystalline guitars is possibly the perfect pop song the Byrds never wrote, whilst 'Your Love is The Place...' (McGinley) is one of the simplest and yet most touching acoustic ballads ever composed. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this album is that no track is overshadowed by those around it - each stands in its own way as an example of how songs should be written, without detracting from the overall flow and cohesion of the whole album.
How three of the best songwriters of the past decade all came to be in one band together is unfathomable, their subsequent lack of success even more so. I didn't think it was going to be possible for TF to surpass their previous two masterpieces, but in many ways I was wrong. Listening to this record will brighten up even the darkest day - your life and collection is not complete without it.