Shadows is the new album from jangglists-supreme Teenage Fanclub. And based on the couple of plays I’ve given it so far (thanks Spotify, my CD is in the post) it is a real return to form for a band I have loved all the way back to “Bandwagonesque”.
The fannies now release a new album about every five years, so it is an event to cherish. I found Man Made (2005) a little “tired” and it just didn’t have that essential x-factor that they become known for, particularly on such fab albums as Grand Prix (1995) and Songs from Northern Britain (1997). Apparently they recorded that album on borrowed amps etc. For this new effort they have dug out a load of their own old gear and really gone for it. And it shows in spades. It is jangly, lush, warm and majestic.
I had already heard “Baby Lee” a while ago. It is sunny, melodic, hummable, memorable. Typical Teenage Fanclub fare. I saw one review of it that criticised it as “Teenage Fanclub by numbers”. Well, that’s how I like it. You can wait for their experimantal kazoo album, I’ll keep the fannies as they are – all Big Star and Byrdsy with an undercurrent of that particular “Scottish soul” that their fellow Scots Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian are also infused with. It seems to be in the Scottish DNA. You can trace it back to Orange Juice and it is the cherry on top of a beautiful sound.
The album kicks off with “Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything”, all swagger and slight Motown infusions (if motown was based in Scotland). Second in is “Baby Lee” (which is my single of the year so far). I’ve also been swayed by the sweet melancholy of “The Past” and “Dark Clouds”. “When I Still Have Thee” is uplifting, expansive and just like honey – A “Sparky’s Dream” for the 10’s. It explains that “The rolling Stones wrote a song for me, it’s a minor song in a major key” – see??? The album moves into more woozy, longing territory on “Sweet Days Waiting” and album-closer “Today never Ends”, both of which are sonically three pints in with just enough sun on your face for that nicely glowing feeling.
And that’s all on two plays. I get the feeling that I will end up loving every track on this album for different reasons after living with it for a while.
Regular readers know that I don’t review loads of music on the site – it really isn’t for that purpose. I think making a judgement on why you like an album is a bit like saying why you fancy a girl – and others may not fancy her. Fools. Well, if this album was a girl, I would tell a few gags, buy it a drink and throw some shapes.
It’s that good.
As previously mentioned, I’ll occasionally be spurred to post about an album or band. Not a review as such – that would be bordering on being a “critic” and would mean that you would need to review albums that you don’t like! What’s the point in that!! That’s a bit like fancying one girl in a room of 30 and also passing comment on why you don’t fancy the other 29!!
Anyway, this weekend is going to be hot hot hot. A perfect album to listen to around 6pm after an afternoon in the garden (you know, a little sunburned, maybe with a beer and barbie on the go) is My Maudlin Career, the latest release by Camera Obscura. It is, for so many reasons, my album of 2009 so far and it will take something bloody impressive to steal that honour away.
The band is from Scotland and they have a sound that takes bits from the best Scottish bands – the melody of Belle and Sebastian, a sprinkling of soul borrowed from Orange Juice and nods to country and west coast Beach Boys pop that seems to have laced the best Scottish music over the last 25 years or so. There are bits that are Motownesque and it sounds as though it was produced by Phil Spector in his best wall-of-sound period, but with a little less layering. And it has “Forever Changes” strings and is possibly what St Etienne would have sounded if they were Scottish.
I’m not going to go through it track-by-track as that’s a bit like saying “I like the girl I fancy’s nose, because… and her hair is great as it is…” but suffice to say, stand out tracks are “French Navy” and “My Maudlin Career”. But they are all great. And blast out “Honey in the Sun” loudest as that would be apt when you follow my instructions to the word.
I’ll admit that I’ve only recently got into the band and I feel a bit robbed as they have been putting music out for 10 years. But I’m glad I’ve stumbled on them now as I can get the back catalogue as well. Woo-hoo!
It’s on Spotify, so go, seek out and listen now.
Probably not – that accolade is more than likely going to go to the massive Beatles reissue campaign in September. That will be an event.
But, the fab four aside, there will be a couple of CDs coming out next week that will probably be ignored by many, but get that accolade from me. I implore you (I don’t implore often, trust me) to purchase the two albums by The Dukes of Stratosphear that are being reissued with demos and extra tracks. 25 O’Clock (officially a mini-album on release in 1985) and Psonic Psunspot (the full-length album from 1987) were previously released together on one CD in the early 1990’s as Chips from the Chocolate Fireball: An Anthology but this is the first time that they are getting proper separate releases with original artwork.
For those that aren’t aware, The Dukes were the psychedelic alter ego of XTC and far from being a pastiche or humorous take on that golden era of music from about 1966 – 1969, it was a homage. XTC were highly competent musicians and tackled a variety of psychedelic styles with gusto. They also took on pseudonyms (is there a better psyche name than E.I.E.I Owen?) and dressed accordingly. An interesting footnote for Stone Roses fans out there – the rumour goes that the band loved the sound of the Dukes so much it got John Leckie, who produced both Dukes albums, the production job on their first album. The albums are fabulous – it’s spot the band time, with everyone from The Beatles, through The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd lovingly and respectfully reproduced – but the songs stand up on their own.
Psychedelia was the music that fired XTC and you can almost smell the fun that they had making them.
Go buy them, you won’t be disappointed.