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Music Review: Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

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In case you’re playing into your 40s, you might want to choose a different band name than Teenage Fanclub. Name joking aside, these guys know how to write pop songs. Shadows, their ninth album, contains a bottomless supply of emotions and infectious melodies gripping as any ripping guitar solo.

Teenage Fanclub hail from Glasgow, Scotland. Formed in 1989, it consists of guitarists Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley, bassist Gerard Love and drummer Francis McDonald. Blake, McGinley, and Love all take turns singing lead and provide backing vocals. The band plays power pop inspired by The Byrd’s, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and 70s artists like Big Star. Shadows is cast in the same dusk/dawn glow you might see gazing on a scenic vista in your 1970 Camaro. After listening, you might accidentally find yourself considering whether to see Star Wars: A New Hope or Annie Hall with your girlfriend, instead of Iron Man 2 or the latest Twilight sequel.

Do Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga’s singing have you screaming to be carried out on a stretcher? If so, you'll probably appreciate Teenage Fanclub, they can really sing. All have rich crisp voices that form a symbiotic relationship with the guitar. Their vocal harmonizing is up there with The Beach Boys, or The Eagles. Check out “Sometimes I Don’t Need” and “When I Still Have Thee.”  With its Australian setting,the latter will probably have listeners from down under raising both hands.

Blake, McGinley and Love write the songs on Shadows, a cohesive daydream of love and lost opportunities. Thankfully, they don’t clump too many slow and sad songs together. I love the detailed and often pastoral imagery in the lyrics. “Waking up before the mist is fully lifted in the morning light. You feel the sadness in her eyes as the autumn wind and golden leaves start singing.” Very rarely do they sound like they’re trying too hard. The scenes they describe are instantly relatable 

Spacey synths, organs, violins, slide guitar, mandolins, and banjos give that 70s folk singer-songwriter vibe. This adds a little polish to the records sound, but it never gets overproduced. Teenage Fanclub keep instrumental hooks short, but the album is more than chimey acoustic guitars. Bass guitar blasts, Keith Moon-like drumming, and fuzzy guitars mark the outro of “Sometimes I Don’t Need.” Having three guitar solos playing simultaneously like on “The Back of My Mind” sounds complex but never muddled.

But Shadows remains a light rock album which may seem tiring for fans of tougher genres. With 12 tracks, it doesn’t feel too long. Most long-running bands weakly attempt to return to their hit sound. Teenage Fanclub really haven’t left it in the first place.

Grade:

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