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4.4 out of 5 stars
28
4.4 out of 5 stars
Howdy!
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 24 October 2000
why do people continue to measure success as the number of times a computer spews out a record onto a playlist ? its only when you hear a record like 'howdy', or its predecessor 'songs from northern britain' that you realise that musicians who live with tunes like these inside their heads will always be successful, because they will always find a loyal audience who will stay with them for as long as they produce records of this quality. trends and fashions will come and go, one week christina, one week britney, next week someone else to drain the nation's pocket money. bands like teenage fanclub, producing nagging, joyous, moving gems like 'dumb,dumb,dumb', 'cul-de-sac' and the previously underrated (by me) single 'i need direction'show the charts up for the money making joyless machine that they are lets make no bones about it, 'howdy' is formulaic, but its a marvellous formula. ringing guitars a la all their usual influences, with harmonies, the odd bongo, but above all tunes that half the computers in the charts would give their hard disks for. songs that stick in your mind after one listen, and that you know will become old friends like those on 'northern britain'. i can't fault this album at all; no duff tunes or fillers. even better than i'd hoped for.
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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 23 October 2000
Welcome back, fellas. After two years of radio silence, the most perfectly -formed band in Britain return with 12 slices of celestial pop. Time to show the pretenders how it's done. Since Bandwagonesque, their 1991 piece de resistance, Norman Blake and friends haven't changed very much. They just get better at doing the same thing. Heartache harmonies, dayglo choruses and an avalanche of empathy are your escorts through Howdy, which was originally mooted as a country album but is instead vintage Fanclub with added keyboards. In an age where the anodyne nonsense of Travis can top the charts, it's difficult to understand why this band are not regulars at number one. Instead, they remain the treasured possession of anyone who has ever sighed in pleasure at a Beach Boys, Byrds or Big Star record. From the opening "fa-fa-fa"s of "I Need Direction", Howdy is set for the heart of the sun. "Accidental Life", "Dumb Dumb Dumb", "Straight and Narrow" and "If I Never See You Again" are the best collection of Blake songs since the album Thirteen (yes, it was his high point), while Gerry Love has clearly been injecting happy pills directly into his temples.. Love's harmony-soaked offerings, including "Near You" and "The Town and the City" have at least three Brian Wilson-level pop hooks each. The down-side, as always, is the band's insistence on allowing Raymond McGinley to contribute a third of the tracks. The guitarist's voice grates, his songs pale in comparison. Democracy was never meant for pop bands. Buy this album for its simple genius, and treasure this band, because one day they will be gone.
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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 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 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 8 August 2004
After two great albums, Grand Prix and Songs From Northern Britain, Teenage Fanclub take a backward step and release an album that most bands would be happy with, but come on, it's not up to their own standards. It sounds like they forgot to add something; Great songs. The only songwriter on form is Gerry Love, whose songs shine with pop magic. Norman Blake provides his worst ever contributions to a TFC album, while Raymond McGinlay (never very good at the best of times) is also running low on good songs. The stand out song of the album is Gerry Love's pop gem, Near You but even that gets marks off for a horrendous bass drum in the chorus. The other song that stands out, again a Gerry Love song, is The Town And the City. On this evidence, TFC have surely run their course and even the thought of old guys calling themselves Teenage Fanclub, sounds rediculous. I would love to hear a solo album from Gerry Love as he seems to be the standout writer carrying his mates. TFC are over unless they try harder. The best idea would be to let Gerry Love write more of the songs.
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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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