Teenage Fanclub – Here

Album Review by Andrew Gordon | 05 Sep 2016
Album title: Here
Artist: Teenage Fanclub
Label: Merge
Release date: 9 Sep

For a while it looked like we’d heard the last of Teenage Fanclub. Shadows, released at the onset of their third decade together, found the band 'waiting for the troubled days to end' over gentle acoustic strumming and wistful pedal steel, betraying a melancholic sense of finality that’s only grown in the six years since. Self-assured and achingly pretty, it had the hallmarks of a typically modest send-off from a group who, while their grunge-era peers have been busy launching increasingly dubious comebacks, have quietly sustained one of the most consistent careers in pop music.

Here, then, is an unexpected treat, and a surprisingly timely one too. As usual Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley share songwriting duties, and it is the latter who exhibits the biggest about-turn. Faced with a modern life that 'corrodes us all', McGinley previously advocated seeking refuge in days gone by (see Shadows’ The Past) but now sounds quite wisely committed to the present. 'Past lives, they’ve got to go,' he vows on the meditative Steady State, and elsewhere sings of escaping an 'island of imagined yesterdays,' imbuing his ever-calm contributions with a welcome topical urgency.

Love, as ever, puts in an exemplary turn, channeling the airy, pastoral psychedelia of his Lightships project and offering up the album’s standout track in I Have Nothing More to Say. All shimmering vocal harmonies and hazy, flanged guitars, it flutters along like a long sigh, exuding a laid-back, daydream contentedness that makes short work of the doubts and heartache alluded to within. To listen is to have your anxieties dissipate into the humid summer air.

The other main attraction is lead single I’m in Love, which comes courtesy of Blake. Lyrically, it’s a straightforward ode to lifelong companionship in the same mould as Baby Lee, that thankfully avoids replicating the latter’s more cornball moments ('Wine me, dine me' anyone?). Blake may have made the transition into full-on dadrock a long time ago at this point (and gracefully so) but I’m in Love is a peppy, entertaining number. It finds the sweet spot between his early barnstormers and more contemplative recent material, featuring chord voicings like honey and a Neil Young-meets-Thin Lizzy guitar solo that somehow sounds both boisterously raw and masterfully sculpted.

An unremarkable final quarter means Here’s not quite as strong an overall statement as Shadows or Man-made, with Connected to Life making an oddly sombre closer for what’s otherwise such an optimistic record. More importantly, though, it’s a different one; another good record in an outstanding discography and hard proof that a goodbye from Teenage Fanclub at this stage would be woefully premature.

Listen to: I’m in Love, I Have Nothing More to Say

Teenage Fanclub play Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh on 6 Sep and Gorilla, Manchester on 7 Sep