Release Date: Jun 8, 2010
Genre(s): Rock, Indie/Alternative
Record label: Merge
Music Critic Score
How the Music Critic Score works
Buy Shadows from Amazon
Veterans of the indie scene dating back to a time when the word was an abbreviation for 'independent' rather than a post-Britpop musical genre, the name Teenage Fanclub has become synonymous with the word "consistent". Fashions and trends may come and go, yet since their conception via Glasgow's shambling C86 scene at the tail end of 1989, Teenage Fanclub have retained an effervescent charm even in their darkest hours. Even more remarkable is the fact that despite over 20 years and ten albums worth of music between them, they've somehow managed to stabilize their line-up to the point that three-quarters of their original members - Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love - still reside in their familiar roles as co-singer/songwriters, guitarists and bass player respectively.
By now, there’s a ho-hum attitude surrounding a new Teenage Fanclub record. This despite the fact they’ve only released a couple studio albums over the last decade. Part of that is the band’s fault. They refuse to cultivate any sort of public image whatsoever. Maybe that’s because back when ….
Since 2000's Howdy!, it seems as if Teenage Fanclub's three singer/songwriters -- guitarist Norman Blake, bassist Gerard Love, and guitarist Raymond McGinley -- are on track to deliver a new album every five years. For longtime fans who remember the first time they heard "The Concept" off the band's classic 1991 album Bandwagonesque, that level of output may seem a bit stingy, but when considering TFC's consistently high-quality songwriting, no true "Fannie" fan is likely to complain. In that sense, Teenage Fanclub's 2010 album Shadows is a sparkling and reflective follow-up to the band's stellar 2005 effort, Man-Made.
In 2005, Teenage Fanclub sounded weary. And with good reason. The Glaswegian quartet had been shoved aside by two major labels-- first Geffen, then Sony-- and its longtime UK home, Creation Records, closed up shop entirely in 1999. By the time the group's ninth album, Man Made, finally arrived in 2005-- via the bands' own PeMa Records label in the UK and Merge in the U.S.-- is was noticeably unsettled.
Less ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, more ‘if you stick anything other than winningly smiley guitar chords and maybe a bit of organ on this I’ll smash an acoustic over your cranium!’, [a]Teenage Fanclub[/a] return with their first album in five years. While the only revolutions here might be the creaky cogs of the Fannies’ 20-year career turning nicely, there’s little denying they’re still worthy of the reverence they effortlessly garner like David Cameron’s roof solar panels quietly absorbing sun rays. In contrast with our wishes for Dave, we hope in another five years they serve up another offering just like it.
Long-running Scots deliver more pop purity Even after two decades as a band, it has to be intimidating when Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake brings in another hook-laden pop masterpiece, and then Gerard Love or Raymond McGinley have to offer something that matches up. Like a world-class pitching rotation, nobody wants to be the guy to give up all the runs and blow a winning streak. And so nothing about Shadows, the band’s 10th outing (and eighth since Bandwagonesque, the grunge-era classic that briefly turned the Big Star-loving Scots into flavors-of-the-month), should surprise longtime fans of their impeccable craftsmanship.
In a music world weakened this year by the untimely loss of Alex Chilton, what better way to celebrate his legacy than with a new album by Teenage Fanclub. Not that they have egregiously copied, but with a discography full of nods to the Big Star icon (2005’s “Feel” being the most recent), novelty isn’t a trait one would readily assign to the veteran Scottish quartet. What they’ve done with Chilton’s combination of power-pop and baroque raw materials, however, has been quite innovative.
The eighth "proper" album from Teenage Fanclub delivers exactly what one expects: gentle, bittersweet guitar pop, which harks back to the 60s without descending into pastiche. Pick of the bunch this time out is The Fall, a meditation on ageing gracefully: "I light a fire underneath what I was/ I won't feel sad only warmed by the loss," McGinley sings in the song's coda, as guitars swell into bloom. The subject matter throughout reflects the band's actual age, rather than that implied by their name – even in Baby Lee, the most playful song on the album, Norman Blake begs not for wild nights, instead demanding: "Marry marry me, oh baby, now I am insistent.
Tenth album from hardy perennials of alternative Scottish pop-rock. Paul Lester 2010 Teenage Fanclub’s first album since 2005’s Man-Made, coming so soon after the death (in March) of Alex Chilton, has the warmth and poignancy of a tribute, even if writing and recording was all wrapped up by then. As with everything they’ve ever done, homage is paid here to the American “B” boys: The Beach Boys, Big Star and The Byrds.
is available now