on 30 July 2004
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.
I didn't discover this remarkable little band until 1997 and the release of Songs from Northern Britain, when I chanced upon them tucked away in a remote listening post in the corner of WHSmith Aylesbury. So taken aback was I by their heady combination of swooning guitars and soaring harmonies, that I snapped it up on the spot, and rarely have I been more satisfied with an impulse buy. It's a true thing of beauty, meandering as it does between the edgy, folkier McGinley-penned numbers to the gorgeous, melodic anthems of Blake and Love. Ain't That Enough is an impossibly great composition that never fails to leave the listener grinning ear to ear, and Planets reveals the trio's softer side, pitching jangly 12-string guitars with majestic string arrangements. More than just a collection of good songs, however, the album feels like a cohesive entity, a natural progression of aural massage that will bannish those winter blues away - from the opening bars to the final, lingering note.
on 20 October 2001
If ever an album summed up the feeling of opening a window onto a crisp, sunny autumn morning, it is this one. BUY this album. These four guys are as comfortable and saturday-afternoon reasurring as old denim and if 'Planets' doesn't bring a lump to your throat when the strings kick in, then you're dead. 'I don't want control of you' is perhaps one of Norman's best post-adolescent love songs and you haven't lived until you have been driving along on a bright morning and heard Gerry love bellow 'SUNSHINE!' at you from the warmth of the stereo on track seven, 'Take the long way around'. Pure firework's night cosiness in a slim perspex case, buy Songs From Northern Britain and fall in love all over again.
on 4 February 2000
this seems to be the most villified of tfc's albums with allegations of blandness thrown readily. i must admit, if teenage fanclub aren't your bag then don't buy this. i think what people object to is the fact that this album is the most technically accomplished of all their output, an ambition hinted at by the excellent grand prix. this is undoubtedly the most accessible of the albums, a sort of big star meets the beach boys with really very professional production values. sure, it doesn't break much new ground, but "i don't want control of you" is as spine tingling as "star sign", and "speed of light" rounds off the album with the same satisfied feeling that "is this music?" achieves, but this is far from the raw genius of 'bandwagonesque' as you can get. to sum it up, this is the sound of a band growing old gracefully, and simply bringing their fantastically melodic and historically resonant pop up to date. they wear their influences on their sleeve, but when you're distilling the beach boys, big star et al, and you're doing it this well, who's complaining ?
on 12 February 2003
By 1997, anything vaguely grungy was out in the UK, and classic 60s harmonies were in vogue. Having came to prominance 6 years earlier as a sort of intellegent Big Star-influenced power-pop band with rockier touches, Teenage Fanclub knew they'd ahve to change to take advantage of their chance to be another big Creation band. This they did.
Compared to the fuzzed-out guitar work of a lot of their earier classics, the vibe on here is much more blissed-out. The Top 20 single Ain't That Enough leads the way, sounding like a lost 60s classic. The otehr two singles may have flopped at the time, but they make for pleasant uptempo listening.
The middle section of the album is especially classy, with It's A Bad World, Take the Long Way ROund and Winter all offering fabulously hummable harmonies. It tails off a little towards the end though, with mount Everest especially plodding, although Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From is one of the more catchy numbers. Can't Feel My Soul is a little out-of-plce, owing more to Dinosaur Jr (a longtime favourite of the band), but sounding a little by-the-numbers. You can get this album pretty cheap now, and I suggest that you do so/
on 11 June 2000
This is my personal favorite album by a band that I have been trying to spread the word about since the early nineties.
For those that know Teenage Fanclub, their beautiful melodies, jangling guitars and Byrds-esque harmonies, there is a special place in our hearts for them.
For those that don't know them, then buying this, or any other of their albums, could be a significant moment in your life.
This is the perfect record for every single occasion, bar none. Start to finish, it is packed with pop perfection that makes your hairs stand on end and your spine tingle. 'Start Again', 'Ain't That Enough', 'I Don't Want Control Of You', 'Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From' are just handful of tracks that epitomise the brilliance of this timeless masterpiece.
I genuinely can't reccommend this album and this band to music lovers enough.
This could be a life enriching investment!
on 30 July 2014
My best buddy bought me this album in '98? To be honest I don't think I even played it and left it in the CD rack for a year or so. I was just coming down from the crushing disappointment of Oasis and Brit Pop in general. When I say Oasis I mean everything they did post 'What's the Story'.
So I stick it on and have a listen. 'Not bad'. Then I guess I listened again, and again, and again. Wow it got stuck in there. I'm not one to idly bandy platitudes around the place, but the first 4 songs on this are pretty much perfect. If I was pressed for a personal favourite it would have to be the complete song, 'I don't want control of you'.
I listen to this album a lot, and without sounding to pompous it holds it's own amongst some very esteemed company.
The cover and artwork are at odds with themselves and the music contained within, or maybe they are not? The cheap thrills promise of a travelling funfair in juxtaposition with the stripped down beauty of the wilds of Scotland (I have assumed). If I'm honest the cover put me off for a while, don't let it do the same to you. This is magnificent.
Some years later I saw them play locally (around 2002) one of the best gigs I've been to, and I've been to a few. I've listened to everything they've done in the intervening years, but this was always the album for me. For some reason I always couple this with Paul Weller's Wild Wood. Not particularly similar, but I think they go together like chips and ketchup.
on 10 December 2008
If you don't like this, you don't like music. Brilliant song after brilliant song, with not a hint of filler. If you particularly enjoy great guitar driven songs, then some of these will become your all-time favourites. I bought his last year and it immediately became my one of my top albums and most played. Heart-warming, feel-good, beautiful - Nick Hornby described it as some of the best musical comfort food you can buy and I can't disagree.
on 8 January 2010
This is the Teenage Fanclub's masterpiece being infectious yet complicated and accessible yet subtle. The sheer gorgeousness of the harmonies on this album mean that even the most mundane of car drives can be a joy with this on the CD changer. It's the kind of album that, more than decade on, remains indelibly planted in the listeners mind because of the sheer brilliance of the songs and musicianship. I honestly couldn't pick out an outstanding track because quite simply they are all great songs brilliantly played. There is a real integrity about this band; they stick to what they are good at, are fundamentally unpretensious and are not at all image concious.
As a previous reviewer has said, 'if you don't like this, you don't like music' I couldn't have put it better myself. If you only get one Teenage Fanclub album make it this one, as subsequent albums have alas been pale shadows of this timeless, criminally underated classic.
Young Danny, York UK
on 27 November 2014
Great as always!!!!!