“It feels good when you're close to me”, goes ‘I’m In Love’, the opening track to Teenage Fanclub’s tenth album. As the familiar guitars and Byrdsian harmonies stream through the speakers, you can’t help thinking that it should be us singing that to them.
Now in their third decade, there’s something comforting about a Fannies album. Always familiar, yet never the same. If anything, parts of ‘Here’ have almost come full circle. Tracks like ‘Thin Air’ move back to a denser, grittier guitar sound that echoes their ‘90s classics such as ‘Bandwagonesque’ (although the sweet melodies taken straight from the Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark songbook remain in force).
However, what this album does posses that earlier albums didn’t, is a mature poignancy — something they’ve honed to perfection over the years. Yes, they’re older now — and the songs reflect this, dealing out a philosophical view of the world and the peculiar way it turns. When we listen to ‘Here’, we’re sitting on a sun drenched veranda, overlooking a gorgeous sunset and taking the time to ponder over what it all means (while tucking into another dram of whiskey, obvs).
Each of the core members (Blake, Love and McGinley) has written four songs, and this uniquely democratic approach has resulted in a tight collection overall. With so many albums, tours and songs down the line, they seem to have worked out what they’re good at — not an easy thing to do (let’s do a quick comparison to REM, whose sense of self slowly seemed to fade as the decades went by). In a nutshell this means you won’t get many surprises; but if you like the Fannies, that’s definitely a good thing.
‘With You’ is a gorgeous, perfectly constructed standout; sad and happy rolled into one. ‘Darkest Part Of The Night’ swims in a feel good(/bad) sea of strings, MOR lyrics and chiming guitars. ‘I Have Nothing More To Say’ takes you to the sun-baked California of the 1967 Monterey Festival (perhaps this is down to starting the album in dreamy, rural Provence?). Some of you will find tracks like ‘Steady State’ just a wee bit too floaty (it’s so light it practically evaporates). But in a world where Donald Trump is running for president of the USA, a rush of MOR harmonies makes for some good escapism. Innovation isn’t on the album’s invite, but nonetheless fans will gobble this up.
Words: Joe Heaney
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