The recent death of Teenage Fanclub's great inspiration Alex Chilton from Big Star served to remind you in addition quite how long the boys from Glasgow themselves have been "treading the boards". Like Big Star they have made over their inestimable career some of the most delicious pop/rock songs this side of the Pecos. The list must include songs like "Everything Flows", "Neil Jung", "Sparky's Dream", "Alcoholiday" "Ain't that enough" and "Starsign" which are up as some of the greatest British songs of the past two decades. It only seems like a nano second ago that "Bandwagonesque" their second album was actually topping Nirvana's "Nevermind" in end of year polls and indeed Kurt Cobain never hid his affection for the Fannies and regularly name checked them in press interviews.
Obviously if your looking for Flying Lotus style experimentation in a Teenage Fanclub album look elsewhere. Their strength is always in their songs with song writing duties generally shared between Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley. As you would expect Roger McQuinn style harmonies predominate and songs packed with warm melodies and killer hooks. To be fair on this album they do branch out with the sumptuous piano ballad "Dark Clouds" and a guest spot for Euros Childs from Welsh wonders Gorky's. Other highlights includes the melodic rocker "Shock and Awe" which is vintage Teenage Fanclub and is guaranteed to bring an extra skip to your step, the truly lovely "Into the city" which is one of their best songs in a long long while and the slow rolling mesmerising country ballad "Today never ends" with echoes of Crosby Stills and Nash is excellent. Opener "Sometimes I don't need to believe in anything" demands no more than you lie back and stare into blue skies and be enveloped by its warmth. As for downsides the single "Baby Lee" borders on repetition and is a bit Teenage Fanclub by numbers and a couple of songs here are on the weak side. Nevertheless you can forgive this band anything. Nick Hornby's excellent book "31 Songs" cites "Songs from Northern Britain" as one of his favourite ever albums and two out of thirty one songs are from Teenage Fanclub. Can I also use this opportunity to request that Rhodri Jones who borrowed my copy of "Grand Prix" in 1996 return it as a matter of urgency! A plea to you dear Amazon readers please don't forget about Teenage Fanclub, they are a quality assured and a national treasure.
on 19 July 2010
I thought TFC's last but one album "Howdy" was a lovely piece and it is maturing nicely (but hey, it got me through a break-up, so...) but I felt that "Man-Made" was a little thin, with only Norman's songs standing out.
This LP promised the same thinness and on the first 2 or three listens I was a little dissapointed - nice noises but where's the passion?
THEN, all of a sudden, the tunes, the harmonies, the instrumentations and the lyrics hit you all at once and you realise this LP is SWOONY - light, airy, colourful and sweet, it is mature fanclub, packed with glistening moments and with an even spread of achievement across the personnel. The absolute platinum stand -out for me is Gerry Love's gorgeous "Shock and Awe" - as lovely and blissful a song as he has written in the past 10 years.
If you had left the Fannies behind, come back. This is a sweet and tender delight of a record that will be the soundtrack to your summer and maybe your autumn too. Think of it as the third part of a trilogy with the softer spoken "Howdy", "Man-Made" and now "Shadows". Heavenly stuff.
on 11 May 2011
Well here we are with a very late review of the latest Fannies album, as I sit at work with not much to do for a lunch break. I actually bought this upon release, as with most of their output, and having read through the other reviews attached to this album have a somewhat wry smirk on my face.
Teenage Fanclub, blah, blah, blah, Big Star, blah, blah, blah, harmonies, blah, Byrds, blah ,blah, Crosby, Stills & Nash (aargh!).Read it all before several times over the years. Look, I love 'em as much as the rest, but the simple facts are that they appear to have donned carpet slippers and smoking jackets years ago, and this album has come and gone as per their previous 3 or 4 efforts. Where the hell has the fun gone? I'm not ready yet to delve into early 70's Calfornian boredom anytime soon, and would describe this latest offering as, pretty, but pretty boring, really.
As a veteran of over three dozen live shows, the chaos and energy that they used to generate live has also gone. I remember a couple of really standout shows on the Bandwagonesque and especially the Thirteen tour with support from The Posies and Superchunk that were a wall of glorious guitar noise. Nah, it's all gone bandy, and lo, the Fannies have slipped into the mists of time, and a band once truly exciting appear to run out of ideas and volume.
Thanks for the memories, chaps, this album won't be high amongst them though, as it highlights a band that is a shadow (no pun intended, but I'll take it!) of its former self. If this is what it's come to, knock it on the head fellas...
on 26 September 2010
Since the beginning, Teenage Fanclub always remained true and
unique. I really enjoyed this album but I have to say, its not
quite as unique as previous Fanclub releases. Memories of the
Eagles even came to mind as I listened, and thats not such a
great thing. The Byrds yes, Eagles no thank you.
The songs here seem slower than most of Teenage Fanclub's
previous endeavors, except possibly their last album "Man-Made".
"Man-Made" was more psychedelic in its approach and effect,
thereby making the slower passages more interesting because of
the psychedelic flourishes.
"Shadows" has a few psychedelic moments, very very few. For the
most part it is very straightforward rural California style late
60's and early 70's pop rock. Yes, "Songs of Northern Britain"
was similar, but also more upbeat and vibrant, with some faster
The first track on Shadows, "Sometimes I Dont Need to Believe
in Anything", is suprisingly written by Gerard Love. This is a
big change because Gerard's songs are usually the melodic upbeat
songs that we really look forward to on Fanclub releases. This
is not the case anymore, as Gerard has drifted off into never
neverland not only on this track but on others as well. However,
I really enjoyed this first track very much with its noisy
background atmosphere and spacey vocals. An Excellent track.
Gerard's change of pace is not a bad thing here, its just
different. As track 2 kicks in with "Baby Lee" we would expect
THIS song to be a Gerard Love composition. Not so, as "Baby Lee"
is primarily a Norman Blake track, and the most melodic track on
the album. A beautiful song, played out with a lot of emotion
and lasting almost four and a half minutes, but feeling more
like three. One of Norman's all time best tracks.
Raymond McGinley's track 3 "The Fall" is a brilliant composition
that starts out humble and develops into creative harmonies and
unique chord changes. One of the best tracks on this album. Pure
and uplifting, yet slow and moving in a subtle way that is very
suprising for a Raymond McGinley song. I've always enjoyed
Raymond's songs but this is a notch above the rest.
Gerard Love is back with track 4 "Into the City". A really nice
track with brilliant vocal harmonies. Although not really a
standout composition, this song has some brilliant vocal
arrangements that carry it through to the end. Very nice.
Hats off to Norman once again for track 5, "Dark Clouds". Norman
really comes through with the songwriting for this album. I
usually prefer Gerard Love's songwriting, but not as much on
"Shadows". "Dark Clouds" is just a beautiful song through and
through. Nothing too unique or special here, just a great song.
The snare drum bugs me on this track though, as there is a
double snare kind of thing in the chorus that doesn't fit. The
snare sound on this track isn't very good either. This is still
an excellent track. Euros Childs played the piano on this track. I wish we heard more of that, because Euros Childs is a genius. He fronted the band "Gorky's Zygotic Mynci" for over 10 years and is a great singer and songwriter.
Track 6 "The Past" is typical McGinley style, not a bad song,
but not a great one either.
Track 7, "Shock and Awe" is a Gerard Love composition and a very
nice one. Still, nothing blows me away with this track. Tracks 6
and 7 kind of go together because, well, they are sort of
Track 8, "When I Still Have Thee", is a Norman Blake track, and
a very nice track again, but nothing great here. This track
sounds like The Eagles and I don't really like the Eagles very
much. I do like the harmonies on this track very much and it has
a nice melody.
Track 9, "Live with the Seasons", is more unique than the
previous 3 tracks thankfully. Nice chord changes, harmonies and
very very nice guitar flourishes. Nice job Raymond!
Track 10, "Sweet Days Waiting" is probably the slowest song
Gerard Love has ever written for a Teenage Fanclub album. Its
really a nice song with beautiful pedal steel guitar, great
melodies. You can slow dance all night long with your lady. Ok,
we gotta pick up the pace though at some point right?
Track 11, "The Back of My Mind" is a really pretty Norman Blake
tune, with excellent harmonies and a very Byrds-like feel the
whole way through. Very nice Norman, your songs just get better
Track 12, "Today Never Ends" is an uneventful McGinley song to
end the album. Its nice but very slow again and not my favorite.
Track 13, "Dark and Lonely Night" appears on one of the import
versions of "Shadows". I don't know who wrote this track but I like it a litte better than "Today Never ends" and maybe it should have appeared as Track 12 on the regular "Shadows" album, followed by "Today Never Ends" as the album closer. Its upbeat and melodic with some nice vocal harmonies.
Overall, an excellent album with great songs, beautiful
harmonies, and a lot of emotion in the performances, except for
the drums. I don't know whats up with the drums, they aren't too
good on this release.
I hope Teenage Fanclub continues to work with Euros Childs. He is just as gifted as the other members of the band and would make a welcome addition. Maybe he will become a full time member of the band? Who knows. I believe Euros was around 17 years old when Gorky's Zygotic Mynci formed in the early 90's. His musical output through the years has been incredible, check out Gorky's albums "Tatay" and "Bywd Time".
Somewhat slow for my taste, it seems like so much music coming
out right now is so slow for some reason. I wish Teenage Fanclub
would have really picked up the pace and included some really
fast tracks like they did on Thirteen and Bandwagonesque. Maybe
next time, but for now, we have another excellent album by
Teenage Fanclub to keep us company on the open road. At least we
will be driving a little slower for now...
on 15 October 2014
I need to state my credentials here , listening to this album as I am, some four years after its release, like someone who has just eagerly grabbed a favourite band;s new album. I didn't catch Teenage Fanclub the first time around. Until last year I had only heard the majestic Ain't That Enough on the Shine 97 compilation ,but I always loved that track and in 2013 I decided to buy the 5 album package (Bandwagonesque, Thirteen, Grand Prix, Songs from Northern Britain and Howdy). That has to be biggest bargain ever! I have played all five albums constantly ever since, in bewilderment that TFC don't have more widespread recognition.
All the aforementioned albums have a high % of killer tracks and a few that aren't so good. What I love about this album is that there are no duff tracks, which is leading me to rate Shadows as possibly their best album - definitely the most consistent.
I've read the TFC reviews arguing that Raymond McGinley's songs on the older albums are not as strong as Gerard and Normans', and I must say I understand that viewpoint. However, what I love about this album is the strength of Ray's songs and his vocal delivery - his voice seems to have mellowed and matured. I think his clutch of four songs is probably the strongest of the three writers on Shadows. His highlight is The Fall - beautiful melody, lyrics and vocal delivery, but all three writers are on form. Norman's highpoint is The Back of my Mind - all west coast harmonies and jangling guitars. Gerard's Shock & Awe is classic Fanclub - right up there with their best.
If you like the Fannies or just love great music...buy this album. The quality of the songs is stunning. I hope one day they will they get the recognition they deserve?
on 2 January 2015
The weakest songs are mostly the contribution of Norman Blake: When I Still Have Thee, Baby Lee (an unfortunate choice for single) and The Back of My Mind. Raymond McGinley is the main man. All McGinley's songs on Shadows are excellent whereas Love's Shock and Awe doesn't quite reach their level and the latter's Sometimes I Don't Believe in Anything is a bit too much Teenage Fanclub doing The Boo Radleys.
McGinley's voice has aged beautifully: it smoulders, full of character. The voices were always their weakest point: the Byrds-y sweetness didn't match the Neil Young guitar/Big Star rest. McGinley puts it over beautifully here though, up close and meaningful. Just listen to Today Never Ends and The Fall to see what I mean. And The Past and Live With the Seasons are just as good. The best song here by Love is Sweet Days Waiting and the best song of all is McGinley's Today Never Ends, which benefits greatly from Love's bassline.
on 2 June 2010
Once hailed as the next big thing, way back in the early 90's, Teenage Fanclub continued to make critically acclaimed albums that were generally ignored by all but a rabid and loyal fan base. They've also, unfairly, been accused of making the same record over and over again.
Now free of major label concerns the band have finally delivered a long player that may well reverse their fortunes and give them a much deserved hit. There isn't any radical reworking of style or sound but there is a sense of precision and a surety of touch lacking in previous releases.
Teenage fan club are still in thrall to the Bryds, Big Star and Crosby Stills & Nash but on Shadows there are also echo's of Crowded House - the folky `When I Still Have Thee', Beatles - `The Past' & `Dark Clouds' and in `Baby Lee' the catchiest single they've ever released. Much like the equally retro minded Pugwash, Teenage Fanclub take the best bits from their hero's and mould them into new and contemporary shapes.
It's also worth noting that those trademark three and four part harmonies have never sounded stronger and proudly take centre stage on most of the tracks - `Into The City' even manages an excellent Beachboys homage.
Gone are the grungy distorted guitars, murky productions and experimentation at the expense of tunes. In are fully realised arrangements, big choruses and three singer songwriters at the peak of they're powers. Gorgeous.
on 29 May 2010
Just got my signed copy of Shadows(from another retailer I'm afraid) in the post this morning. Only played it a couple of times but on initial listen it is Blake's songs that stick in my head. Baby Lee, the single, obviously had a bit of a head start and it really is up there with the Fannies finest. Likewise When I Still have thee is beautiful. The album reminds me a bit of Northern Songs which although an amazing album was a bit of a grower.
Edit: Having listened to this religously for the last couple of weeks I still love Normans songs but Ray and Gerry's songs have really grown on me too. Sweet days Waiting is possibly Gerry's best ballad ever and Ray's the Fall is awesome too.
on 13 August 2010
The good ol' Teenage Fan Club, now 20 years into the business of releasing albums. From the grungey/grebbo Catholic Education to an established formula of soft, melodious, guitar-led rock strictly their own (Songs from Northern Britain) via indie pop-rock masterpieces such as Bandwagonesque and Grand Prix. This new LP is in the vein of Songs from Northern Britain, like the 3 or 4 albums before. Yes, there is an early Big Star / Byrds influence, but with 3 capable songwriters, Teenage Fanclub are more than able to bring their own sound and stamp to the fore. However, it is not that easy to pick up the differences between this album and its direct predecessors. Why change the formula if it's good and keeps a sizeable - if middle-aged - public?
on 8 January 2011
I'm a huge fan of Teenage Fanclub and this is a solid, though not spactacular, release. Lovely melodies, more hooks than a tackle box, an understated folky vibe--the record easily makes my top 10 for the year. The problem comes from the vinyl pressing that I received. As with far too many modern vinyl editions, there seems to have been little care taken in terms of releasing a quality product. My brand-new copy had numerous flaws--deep scuffs, scratches, voids--which caused several loud pops and constant noise throughout. A real shame and a tremendous letdown for fans.