Masterclass melody by shaggy, unassuming romanticists...
No light-show, no explosions, no strippers, dancers, guest rappers or fancy visuals. There is a Halloween fireworks display on the streets outside, for which Norman Blake duly thanks us and tells us it wasn’t necessary. But with [a]Teenage Fanclub[/a], as much as you know you’re not going to get the fanfare, you also know exactly what you are going to get. Tunes. Because, while their [a]Creation[/a] bedfellows Oasis and Primal Scream spent the last decade making headlines and taking drugs, the Fannies stuck to the business of writing tunes.
So tonight, although the set will obviously work around quietly-fabulous new album ‘Howdy!’, there is also a decade of tunes for you to cross your fingers and wish for. And it seems as though the audience tonight are thinking way back, to the spirit of ’90, when hair was long, T-shirts stripy and ‘God Knows It’s True’ was top of the slacker charts. It still sounds terrific, a sweet’n’simple smack of underachieving feedback guitar pop. With a taste for the past, they go back further, to Blake‘s ‘Everything Flows’, and the majority of tonight’s audience feels young and trendy again for a couple of minutes.
But will the new material match up to that of the past? Will the songs of ‘Howdy!’ sustain the loyalty of the Fanclub‘s fan-club? Without doubt. ‘Howdy!’ is a record that creeps up on you round about the third-listen mark, and the penny drops, the melodies sparkle through the cracks and deep-pile harmonies give you that Ready Brek glow. Tonight’s show also confirms the Fannies‘ concentration on a more textured, richer sound – one that employs organs and xylophone and the sort of contraptions they stopped making 25 years ago. New single ‘I Need Direction’ is a glorious summer kiss-off. ‘Accidental Life’ orbits beautifully around The Byrds‘ shimmering cosmos. ‘I Can’t Find My Way Home’ provokes mass soul-searching. And ‘Cul De Sac’ is the sound of angels with guitars.
They whiz through ‘Ain’t That Enough’, ‘Radio’, ‘Sparky’s Dream’, and a knockout rendition of Gerry Love‘s ‘Don’t Look Back’. They sign off the second encore with ‘Starsign’. The guy beside us turns and says, “Imagine being able to write a song that good.” We move away quickly, but we take heed of what he says. Because this is the stuff of masterclass melody, tunes born to be harmonised and blessed with chiming, American country-rock guitar, by shaggy, unassuming romanticists from Glasgow. For all their unostentatious, faded denim nostalgia, [a]Teenage Fanclub[/a] still make us smile, cry and shout for more.