I told/warned you I’d get back round to Teenage Fanclub before this was all done.
Formed at the tail end of the 80s and hailing from Bellshill, Teenage Fanclub are one of my favourite bands. The core of Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love have been backed on drums over the years by Francis MacDonald, Brendan O’Hare, Paul Quinn and currently Francis MacDonald again on drums. I’m mostly going to be talking about one particular album here, but with a little bit about the rest.
The finest moment on Teenage Fanclub’s debut album, A Catholic Education, is magnificent Everything Flows, but there’s a version of that song that appeared a few years later that I prefer, so we’ll get back to that. A Catholic Education is a more abrasive affair than you’d expect if you’re only familiar with later Teenage Fanclub songs. The harmonies and melodies that I instantly associate with The Fannies are in there, but generally surrounded by a harsher, grungier sound than we’d get on later releases.
Teenage Fanclub – Critical Mass
Follow up album The King was recorded after their first album, but released before it. Shambolic, messy and rough sounding, the band put this down to the influence of producer Don Fleming, who would encourage improvisation. The King is pretty much miles away from every other Teenage Fanclub album, but a lot of fun, especially the pair of cover versions it contains.
Teenage Fanclub – Mudhoney
Bandwagonesque tends to be the most critically aclaimed of the Teenage Fanclub albums, and is where the trademark melodies and harmonies really come to the front. Dialing back, but not losing entirely – Satan is far from a chirpy pop song, the grunge sound for something more akin to The Byrds and, particularly, Big Star, Bandwagonesque is pretty excellent, but it’s not my favourite.
Teenage Fanclub – The Concept
Thirteen shares it’s name with a Big Star song, and the Alex Chilton influence shows throughout. A fine album, but still not my favourite.
Teenage Fanclub – 120 Minutes
Remember that time Teenage Fanclub collaborated with De La Soul for a song on a film soundtrack? This question is usually answered in one of two ways, either with “of course, it’s brilliant” or with a wary look and “are you quite sure you didn’t just dream that up?”. I did not dream it up, and it is brilliant. Fallin’ comes from the soundtrack to Judgment Night.
Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul – Fallin’
Grand Prix was released in 1995, which was a good time for me. As I’ve mentioned before, it was around that time that I was really developing my own tastes in music (which admittedly wasn’t always great), albeit still holding onto the best of the influences passed on to me by my older siblings.
Being the youngest of six children has definite advantages if they have good taste – my oldest two brothers were at the right age to be into punk back in the late 70’s, the next eldest brother was a student for Madchester and so on. Of course along the way you subconsciously learn to ignore one of the brother’s liking Genesis, or your oldest sister just having no taste, that kind of thing. Generally it was a good base to work from though. Those same influences meant that when Grand Prix was released I was no stranger to Teenage Fanclub, but was too young up till then to have paid a lot of attention. The first time hearing Mellow Doubt was enough to revive pleasant memories of past albums, then along came Sparky’s Dream which sealed the deal, cementing a life long love of the Boys From Bellshill. Grand Prix then was the first Teenage Fanclub album I bought for myself, but far from the last. There is a multitude of fantastic pop songs on Grand Prix. It was also a breath of fresh air at the time, miles away from the rest of Creation’s output, where every other band were Oasis, wanted to be Oasis or were, well, The Jesus & Mary Chain…
If you hadn’t twigged yet, Grand Prix is my favourite Teenage Fanclub album, to the point where I’m struggling to pick just one song from the album to post. Instead, singles. It was common practice through the late 90s and 2000s to release two CD singles, with different b-sides. Often these would end up padded out with lousy remixes, but not with Teenage Fanclub, where you’d always get unreleased material, new songs or covers. For the singles from Grand Prix there was even a different version of the A-side on the second single, so it’s these alternate versions I’m going with.
Teenage Fanclub – Mellow Doubt (Alternative Version)
Teenage Fanclub – Sparky’s Dream (Alternative Version)
Teenage Fanclub – Neil Jung (Alternative Version)
Not long after Grand Prix and the singles from the album came a little curiosity, a four track EP called Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It. Containing a new acoustic version of a song from A Catholic Education, Bandwagonesque, Thirteen and Grand Prix, recorded in a living room. It’s a crying shame that this EP is long out of print, if I had my way copies of it would be issued in schools. Anyway, that version of Everything Flows that I prefer to the album version I mentioned earlier? It comes from Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It.
Teenage Fanclub – Everything Flows
Since I’ve mentioned Alex Chilton a couple of times as an influence on the band this seems as good a place as any to drop this in. In 1996 The Fannies played as Chilton’s backing band for a couple of gigs in Glasgow. Cue taped-off-the-radio bootleg!
Alex Chilton with Teenage Fanclub – Dark End of the Street
The opening four songs of Songs from Northern Britain are excellent. The rest isn’t half bad either. By now you know what to expect, you get it, and you are happy.
Teenage Fanclub – Your Love is the Place Where I Come From
I really don’t have a lot to say about 2000’s Howdy!, 2005’s Man Made or the most recent album, 2010’s Shadows other than that they are still consistently really good. Rather than me awkwardly trying to find new ways to say “yup, still good” we’ll leave it there then, shall we?
If, after all that, you still can’t work out a good place to start with Teenage Fanclub, you can’t really go wrong with the collection Four Thousand Seven Hundred And Sixty-Six Seconds – A Short Cut To Teenage Fanclub, but if you skip over to Amazon you can get Grand Prix & Songs from Northern Britain in a nice wee cheap bundle here.
I’ll sign off with a trio of b-sides. The first is a Teenage Fanclub original from the B-side of Mellow Doubt, the second a cover from the Ain’t That Enough of, who else? Big Star, then finally, a cover of the Pixies from the I Need Direction single.
Teenage Fanclub – Some People Try To Fuck With You
Teenage Fanclub – Jesus Christ
Teenage Fanclub – Here Comes Your Man
Keep up with Teenage Fanclub over on their website.