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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 28 July 2002
I think that one of the greatest achievements of Teenage Fanclub is their innate ability to distill the best and most memorable achievements in recent pop music: Beatles, the Byrds, Big Star, et al. and just deliver beautifully crafted songs. I still get goosebumps listening to any of their records. This is the way I always wished my band to sound. Happy, straight and un-presumptous music. No coincedence that artists like Matthew Sweet, who also drink from the same fountain of musical inspiration as TFC, is also one of my favorite artists. So much music nowadays is heralded by self-appointed "mental patients", pretend tough guys deppresives, etc. Its good to just listen to music dedicated to us, the normal ones, the little people. It is such a humble and honest way to approach a listener. Simple and heartfelt. Give them a try, you won't regret it!
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on 7 November 2000
Just call me a bold-faced liar. Were I an honest man, I'd have given "Howdy!" the five-star rating it deserves. But why tell Teenage Fanclub faithful something they already know? Any self-respecting fan has already bought the album; their reading of this review amounts to little more than an afterthought. These comments are intended for the uninitiated masses; the curious onlookers compelled to explore the murky depths of the indie pool in search of something decidedly less MTV inspired. Tread these waters carefully, friends! While discovering Teenage Fanclub may not be as remarkable a feat as unearthing Scotland's more famous offspring, the experience is pretty darn close. Granted, the Loch Ness monster may generate more tourist dollars for her native land, but I'm guessing she doesn't write songs nearly half as catchy.
"Howdy!" marks the sixth commercial release for Teenage Fanclub principals' Raymond McGinley, Norman Blake, and Gerard Love. Having spent the better part of a decade with little more than indie level recognition, you'd think the Scottish power popsters would be embittered by their lackluster chart success. Far from being soured, "Howdy!" -- with its jocularly dismissive title and album cover artwork more befitting a preschool pencil sketch -- reaffirms Teenage Fanclub as premier craftsmen of joyful, unadulterated pop. This is a collection of happy songs, yes, but deceptively so. Beneath the whimsical title and colorful melodies, the boys are clearly dragging some emotional baggage. Fortunately, the Fannies were never ones to hide their feelings.
Ever the democracy, McGinley, Blake, and Love share songwriting responsibilities, with each contributing four tracks to the album. McGinley, habitually overshadowed by his bandmates, proves himself to be a more disciplined composer with each album. "The Sun Shines From You" is a standout. With its acoustically-charged riff and cheerful melody, the song is tailor-made for carefree summer days. "I Can't Find My Way Home" and "Happiness" are mature efforts as well, though McGinley's voice does tend to wear on the listener after a few tracks. Just when I thought the Fannies had abandoned their penchant for endless fadeouts, McGinley steps up to the plate with "My Uptight Life". In the time it took this song to fade from chorus, I could have married, raised children, and put them through college. Though slightly overdone, the song is a pleasant reminder of Fannie fadeouts past.
Perhaps my expectations of Norman Blake are too high. Considering he's penned such Fanclub classics as "The Concept", "Neil Jung", and "Planets", my hopes for his latest compositions could not have been anything less than lofty. This may explain why I came away from "Howdy!" feeling slightly disappointed. "Dumb Dumb Dumb" is a promising effort that would have benefited greatly from a chorus or middle eight. "Accidental Life" and "Straight and Narrow", while not without their charm, lack the usual Blakean flare. Blake's strongest contribution, "If I Never See You Again", is an emotional acoustic piece that would fit equally as well on any R.E.M. album (perhaps the Fannies' tour with the Georgia-based lads rubbed off on Norman more than he realized). The delicate song is a fitting closer for the album. A good collection of Blake songs, but Fanclub fans have grown accustomed to greatness.
Odds are Gerard Love won't be sainted in this lifetime or beyond. However, it is a safe bet the musical gods will one day welcome him into their midst. Assuming, of course, Love hasn't already achieved a higher plane of awareness (how else can one explain his ability to write such divine music?). "I Need Direction", with its Beatlesque drum fills and 'bah bah bah' backing vocals, oozes 60's nostalgia. "The Town and the City" has a rousing enough horn section and an infectious rhythm to challenge "The Sun Shines From You" as the feel-good-track of the album. While "Cul De Sac" might initially strike the listener as a down-tempo version of Fanclub's "Speed of Light", the song is both evocative and original in its own right. "Near You" is Howdy's signature track. The song is simply euphoric, particularly during the hookline: "I get near, but I never seem to reach you." The listening experience is akin to a flying dream, where you're soaring blissfully above the heavens. Yes, the song is that good! What is even more amazing is when you peruse the Teenage Fanclub catalogue, you'll discover that Love has penned several equally inspiring songs.
"Howdy!" is very good album, an absolute must for any completist, but the band has done better. New fans may wish to start with Teenage Fanclub's previous album, "Songs From Northern Britain", or perhaps "Grand Prix", arguably the Fannies' catchiest collection of songs to date. In the end, it doesn't really matter where you begin your collection. Once you've listened to one album, you'll likely buy all the others as well. Then you can see for yourself why "Howdy!" really is a five-star album.
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on 9 December 2000
No change of direction other than the fuller arrangements, built up with hammond organ, harmonicas and other odds and sods - even Fanclub on auto pilot beats the best most other bands can muster.
Gerry Love contributes the "hit singles" off this collection - "I Need Direction", "Near You", "The Town and the City" - each as good and as catchy as anything he's ever composed.
The real revelation for me on this album is the sheer quality of Ray McGinley's songs. So often the "third man" behind Love and Blake, "Howdy" sees Ray step right out of the shadows with some classic songwriting, the depth of which is unrivalled by much of the contribution of Love and Blake. Forget the gripes about Ray's voice. Listen to the songs.
The album lost one star due to Norman Blake's selection of songs. Must try harder, Norm. Nothing wrong with them, just average Fanclub fare though. Remember, this is the man who has written countless exceptional TFC tunes.
But as I said, better on autopilot than...
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on 8 May 2003
Teenage Fanclub, surely the most underappreciated band of recent times, carried on where their previous album "Songs From Northern Britain" had left off with another collection of harmonic masterpieces. This record is a real grower and, while I wouldn't recommend it as your first Fanclub purchase (try the new Best Of or Grand Prix) there are enough quality moments to ensure a five-star rating. Norman Blake, Gerry Love and Ray McGinley are great singers and songwriters and have produced the goods yet again. From the chiming "I Need Direction" with its "ba ba ba" backing vocals to the call and response vocals of "My Uptight Life, this album is a must for anyone who enjoys jangling guitars, harmonies and summery tunes.
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on 5 November 2000
Another time, another day teenage fanclub could have the travis of their day, specialising in yearning melodies performed by nice Glaswgians. Alternatively, the fact that 1995's Grand Prix became one of the decade's greatest forgotten albums rather than one of it's most ubiquitous may be seen as a blessing. Their sixth album's sunny joie de vivre is the work of a band with no pressure and nothing to lose.
As the title suggests, there's a countryish tinge to proceedings, as well as those familiar touchstones, The Byrds and the Beach Boys. From the "ba-ba" harmonies of 'I Need Direction' to the tender closer 'If I Never See You Again', it's pretty much an unadultered joy. For all their lyrical melancholy, 'Near You' and 'Dumb Dumb Dumb' glow with brow-soothing good vibes. Teenage Fanclub's recent promises of experimentation may extend no further than the starter-kit sound effects and bongos on the gorgeous summer haze of 'Cul De Sac', but few bands epitomise so well the virtues of not fixing that which isn't broken.
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on 3 November 2000
I bought this the day it came out, and it is pretty much what I expected - Lovely tunes, swoonsome melodies and choruses that go round and round in your head all day. I don't want to compare it to previous TFC albums because any band worth their salt is going to move on and avoid repeating themselves (see Radiohead also). This is probably the most mellow TFC album and the vibe is not dissimilar to Neil Young's "Harvest Moon". I saw them play most of this album live in Liverpool two nights ago and for me it is the joint best album of 2000 (along with Kid A). If you liked Songs from Northen Britain you will enjoy it, but if your only reference point is Bandwagonesque or 13 then you might be in for a surprise.
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on 12 November 2000
Life is tough, but TFC make it alright. They bring warmth to winter with chord changes that melt your heart. Complete genius. If the quality of a band is measured by the number of times you return to their records then TFC destroy the opposition. Grand Prix, Bandwagonesque, Songs from Northern Britain to choose a favourite would be to choose between your own children. Howdy continues the list in fine style. The only downside of being a TFC disciple is that you feel pain when they don't achieve the recognition they deserve.I'm sure the lads are cool with it but I'd love it, just love it if they hit no1 one day. Anyway as I say - please never ever let TFC stop recording.
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on 5 November 2001
I bought this album six months ago, and it's still fantastic!. It is full of wonderful, happy, joyful music, great chord changes, harmonies and uplifting lyrics.
Just buy it, you won't regret it!
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on 29 October 2000
Teenage fanclub have gone from strength to strength over their career, 'Bandwagonesque' saw them on the verge of something big and the boys delivered with two all-time 'must buy' classics in 'Grand Prix' and then 'Songs from Northern Britain'. Each was crammed with The T.F's trademark three-part haromnies and hooks to die for. The expectations of 'Howdy' were therefore very high, and indeed reviews have been very favourable, but in my opinion, with one or two exceptions the songs are poor b-sides at best, with tunes that go nowhere. Maybe this will grow on me but so far it seems to be a case of the 'Emperor's new clothes' and I know they can do so much better. If you have no TF in your collection yet, buy 5-star 'Grand Prix' and 'Songs From Northern Britain', and leave 'Howdy' on the shelf.
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on 5 July 2002
Teenage Fanclub are to music what Nick Hornby is to books.
Their songs are funny, unpretentious, smarter than they look, mad for pop ( Byrds, Beatles, Big Star, Beach Boys, bubblegum, Neil Young) good company. Buy this new, buy this used but GET THIS INTO YOUR HOME. You'll like it.
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