Still Creating Sparks and Dreams After All These Years.
After a career totalling around 30 years and releasing a dozen or so albums you would expect a band with the experience of Teenage Fanclub to be able to deal with the loss of a valued member of the squad; and that’s just one of the many problems they had to handle on this album.
Stick as close as possible to the routines/systems that have worked for them and slot in the ‘newcomer’, Euro Childs, and produce an album that is undoubtedly Teenage Fanclub from the opening bars.
The loss of Gerry Love after all those years has been overcome; and that’s a tribute to both the band and their former member.
From a personal point of view TFC take me back to 1990/91, when I was trailing around record shops to secure their albums for my son (16 at the time and a very keen fan) as a birthday or Christmas present along with ‘Screamadlica’ by Primal Scream!
Little did I expect both of these bands to be still knocking out albums 30 odd years later, but they are and they still do it with the same vigour as they’ve demonstrated each time I’ve seen them over the years.
My customary review selections tend to be bands/artists on the way up; or with just a couple of releases under their belt; so this was a major challenge as I made sure I went back over a few of their albums to see what (if anything) had changed in addition to the personnel.
The simple answer (although that does seem a bit condescending) is that we are presented with 40 plus minutes of what they do best – articulate lyrics, indie guitars and excellent rhythms that have stood them in good stead.
The constants include of course the retention of Blake and McGinley who haven’t lost their songwriting expertise.
I must admit that I am not a lover of lengthy openers so ‘Home’ at just over 7 minutes had me a bit concerned, although the vocals on the track are just typical TFC, followed by plenty trading of guitars.
As a total opposite we then find ‘Endless Arcade’ comes in at just 3 minutes
‘don’t be afraid of this life’ ,
life being the endless arcade in the track.
Sounds as though it could be a Luke Haines ‘new wave’ offering?
The songwriting has been split between Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley and you never lose their ability to come up with well crafted and considered lyrics; although the album probably misses out on a real standout track/single, the closest being ‘The Sun Won’t Shine On Me’, backed up by some top notch guitar work.
On ‘Living With You’ we get a very much from the heart plea that
‘it’s going to take a minor miracle but I want to be around and living with you’
while the final track ‘Silent Song’ slides in very gently
‘see what I want to see with my eyes’
and develops slowly into a very sad and soulful lament. A sign that the spark is still there.
‘In Our Dreams’ stands out as the track that couldn’t be by any other band; with the harmonies as good as ever and the heavier guitars picking up on a track that (in my view) just misses out on being an outstanding song, although I can’t put my finger on what is missing – it’s just a feeling I had.
Overall, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of their fan base will be happy with this album, but I am not 100% certain that it will hit the mark with other listeners; but as I mentioned above, I just can’t decide what it is that’s the missing ingredient.
I must stress that there are no poor tracks on here but it just lacks the few strong and outstanding tracks found on most of the Teenage Fanclub back catalogue.
I understand that they are already planning another album, and it will be interesting to see how the new group will have developed/progressed before that is released – I am pretty confident that they will soon get back to their previous standards.
It may not quite be to the high standards of previous releases, but being slightly below par is still better than most other groups.
Review by Bill ‘Two Jabs’ Redhead.
Released 30th April 2021
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