Release Date: Apr 17, 2012
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop
As one of three songwriters in Teenage Fanclub, Gerard Love can be counted on to write a love song that's both musically gorgeous and lyrically surprising - the kind of song you wish you'd written, or that someone had written for you. Under the name Lightships, Love has free rein, and the 10 songs on his solo debut venture down an even more dreamlike, romantic path than those he records with his day band. Numerous titles (not to mention the band name) make reference to sun and light, and he's not being ironic; this is a blatantly hopeful record.
After over 20 years playing in Teenage Fanclub and a few playing with the Pastels, Lightships is Gerard Love's first crack at a solo career. Gathering up friends like Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian, Tom Crossley of International Airport, and original TFC drummer Brendan O'Hare, Love spent time between TFC records and tours crafting a beguiling album that has roots in the chiming guitar pop sound he helped create but is far more atmospheric and low-key. Love's songs in the Fanclub are often the band's most direct and powerfully pop, but on Electric Cables he approaches the songs much more subtly, burying the rhythm guitars deep in the mix and adding all kinds of sound on top.
Gerard Love’s ability to sing in a languorous way over dreamy music should be familiar to any fan of his band Teenage Fanclub, who are now over two decades into their career. Go back and listen, for example, to “Sweet Days Waiting”, my favorite song on their most recent LP, 2010’s Shadows. Think of that approach to pop/rock songwriting as a stretching out of time, like time-lapse photography that captures the flickering rays of the sun.
Fans of Gerard Love's work with Teenage Fanclub will sigh contendedly at how Fanclubesque this album is. Every element is in place: Love's diffident, uninsistent voice; quirky arrangements where the expected guitar is replaced by something else – a flute, a keyboard; those little repeated instrumental hooks that pick their way through a whole song; the autumnal mood, part regret, part contentment; that glorious way with a melody. Love's songwriting is wholly distinctive.
Twenty years ago this past February, Teenage Fanclub made their North American network television debut on Saturday Night Live, in an episode hosted, fittingly, by 90210 heartthrob Jason Priestley. Coming in the wake of the band's critically adored 1991 breakthrough Bandwagonesque, the moment effectively marked the Scottish bubble-grunge quartet's Stateside high watermark, before they receded from the indie-rock frontlines with a series of increasingly sporadic and increasingly mellow releases that gradually sucked the power out of their pop. Now, as per the clockwork 20-year nostalgia cycle, the Fannies' formative fuzz-pop sound has been making something of a resurgence via tunefully dissonant successors like Yuck and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
As one of three equally capable songwriters in Teenage Fanclub, Gerard Love’s contributions shone for their summery warmth and big, immediate choruses. While his bandmates took their Big Star-influenced power pop in offbeat directions, he remained constant, delivering two of the band’s biggest hits in ‘Ain’t That Enough’ and ‘Star Sign’. On this solo outing, backed by several members of Glasgow’s indie mafia (Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian, Tom Crossley from The Pastels, Dave McGowan and Brendan O’Hare from Teenage Fanclub), Love gets to indulge his sweet tooth over a whole record.
Gerard Love tends to keep busy. As he writes on his blog, “2009 had been spent mixing the Teenage Fanclub LP, developing the song ideas and starting the lyrics for Lightships, touring with The Pastels and Tenniscoats in support of their Two Sunsets LP, playing a one-off unforgettable show with the great Edwyn Collins at Mono (Glasgow), and working on the Lightships thing a little bit more…” And now, here in spring 2012, “the Lightships thing” has resulted in Electric Cables, a mellow but multi-layered 10-song album, which Love recorded in Glasgow over the past few years with friends, including members of his 20-year-old band, Teenage Fanclub, and Bob Kildea of Belle and Sebastian. These collaborations coupled with Love’s easy commute to record in the neighborhood at his own pace culminated in a welcoming, laid-back, and cohesive album that is the embodiment of springtime.
It would be unreasonable to assume that after spending more than two decades as part of Teenage Fanclub, Gerald Love's debut as Lightships was going to be anything but a collection of melodic guitar pop. On that front, he delivers. What is a bit more unexpected is that Love has made an album as good as any he's been involved with for a long, long time.
A comfortable masterclass from a songwriter in complete command of his aesthetic. Alex Denney 2012 For many, Teenage Fanclub will forever be one of rock’s most serially under-sung talents. Hailed by Kurt Cobain as the best band in the world and Liam Gallagher as the second best (hint: Beady Eye didn’t come first), the Glasgow band’s power-pop revivalism was the missing link between the C86 scene that spawned them and the grunge kids that followed.